Amesbury mom helps Christmas Tree Santas grow

Rebecca Nazzaro with her two children, Matthew and Anna.

AMESBURY — You may not be ready to make Christmas plans, but Christmas Tree Santas volunteers have been making their lists and checking them twice for months.

One of those volunteers is Rebecca Nazzaro. “I was introduced to it by the Mothers Club,” she said of the group now renamed as the Greater Newburyport Mothers and Families Club. It serves 900 members in the lower Merrimack Valley and New Hampshire Seacoast.

She is the former lead organizer of the club’s community outreach team, which for the past five years has been engaging more and more people and organizational partners, including children. “I’m still an active member and volunteer through their outreach efforts,” she said. 

“One of our members knew of it (Christmas Tree Santas),” she said, so the club started providing food in December when folks picked up their trees. 

Christmas Tree Santas was created five years ago by Alex Gramling of Newburyport, after he advertised a free artificial Christmas tree on Craigslist and saw how much it was appreciated by the single mom who received it.

The tree program has now grown to locations in six states and is covered in the 2015 winter issue of the UU World, the national magazine of the Unitarian Universalist Association of which Gramling’s church, the First Religious Society of Newburyport, is a member.

For Nazzaro, volunteering is part of her new life, which includes starting a family (Matthew, 7, and Anna, 6); earning a master’s degree in guidance; and starting a new job this fall as a guidance counselor at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, N.H. 

Previously, her bachelor’s degree in international relations led to her becoming an international manager with State Street Bank of Boston, a life she said she has no time to miss. However, she would like to revisit Paris with her family, when Matthew and Anna are older. She spent time there as a student, living with a French family.

Again this year, Christmas Tree Santas is buying live trees wholesale. Recipients get a tree voucher from an organization such as The Pettengill House of Salisbury and Amesbury to collect their tree. Stands and ornaments may come with it, as does a hot drink and homemade food supplied by the Mothers and Families Club. This year, that event will be at the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm in Newbury.

Not surprisingly, Nazzaro is a former board member of the club, and has now joined the board at Pettengill House, which serves nine area communities. She was attracted by its work with the schools.

“The mission of The Pettengill House, Inc. is to support and empower children and families by providing education, comprehensive case management and basic needs; and by coordinating community supports that contribute to individual and family stabilization, personal growth and development,” according to its website.

She attributes her volunteer inclination to her mother, who volunteered at a nursing home near their house in Mount Vernon, N.H., where they had moved from Pennsylvania. “I saw how important that was to her,” Nazzaro said, “so I hope my kids adopt that mentality.”

Matthew and Anna have donated backpacks and toys, and have helped at the Christmas Tree Santas event. “It’s just that they know how fortunate they are,” she said.

With her children enrolled at the Immaculate Conception School in Newburyport, there are volunteer opportunities there as well, she said.

“It makes me feel good about myself,” Nazzaro said of the satisfaction she receives from volunteering.

If you have a suggestion of someone for John Harwood to interview for the Getting Acquainted With series, contact him at jrharwood65000@hotmail.com.

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