Thanks to one man determined to make a difference this holiday season, a Christmas landmark in Manchester, New Hampshire, has now turned into a source of revenue for two addiction recovery centers in the city.
“It’s hard to see even friends and people that I know. It’s unsettling for me,” said Justin Rheaume.
His city is in the throes of one of the worst heroin epidemics in the country, so he decided to do something to help in time for Christmas.
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Rheaume’s family owns the Manchester tree lot where a giant Santa statue has stood at the corner of Salmon and Elm streets every holiday season for 24 years.
“There’s only seven in the world,” he told necn. “People come by and take pictures.”
The landmark’s become so popular, Rheaume thought if he put it on a tee shirt, he could sell a lot of them. And that, he is.
“It’s nice to do it, it’s convenient to get a tree and give something to people in need,” said Manchester resident Kim Belisle.
All proceeds are going to two non-profit recovery centers that support people like Karen Frye.
Thanks to Hope for New Hampshire Recovery, this will be Frye’s first Christmas sober.
“Yeah and I am 56 years old,” she said through tears. “Ever in my life.”
She’s now a volunteer at the recovery center and is the first smiling face you see as you enter the door.
“There is hope, there is no need for anyone to have to walk through the darkness alone,” Frye said. “Reach out and take my hand and walk with me and I will walk with you.”
She and others at Hope for New Hampshire are proudly wearing their big Santa tees, encouraged by the fact that Rheaume is selling out of every order.
“It’s so amazing, because that’s what we are, we are a community,” Frye said smiling.
Logo Loc, the Pelham, New Hampshire company where Rheaume works, is printing the shirts for free, so the entire cost of the $10 shirt will be donated. Rheaume is hopeful to give both recovery centers at least $1,000 in time for Christmas.
The shirts can only be purchased at the tree lot on Salmon Street in Manchester.