`Unsung heroine' applauds community.


Byline: Ellie Oleson


Last year, about 50 children in Rutland, Hubbardston, Oakham and Barre received toys from the Telegram & Gazette Santa. This year, the number of children in need has doubled in these communities.

Paula J. Stidsen, who heads the Rutland Food Pantry and St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Patrick's Church in Rutland, said that at Thanksgiving the food bank fed 50 families with more than 100 children. Many of these families also signed up for help with toys.

Ms. Stidsen said a food distribution is planned for Dec. 18 and toys will be distributed from the T&G Santa from the basement of the church in time for the holidays.

"We try to match the toys to the children. We want every one to have a happy Christmas."

Though a majority of toys come from the T&G Santa, volunteers with the Rutland Girl Scouts, Rutland elementary schools, St. Patrick's Church and First Congregational Church of Rutland also have held toy collections.

Leading the way is Ms. Stidsen, who works closely with the T&G Santa and Worcester County Food Bank. For her charitable work, she was honored in June at the Statehouse in Boston as one of the "100 Unsung Heroines of 2010."

She insisted that credit should go to others. "I can't say enough about the people in this town. They are very, very giving."

She offered special thanks to the Rutland Business Association, which "buys toys and gives generous donations to help each year."

Ms. Stidsen and her husband, Brian E. Stidsen, own Sentry Oil Inc., which has been a family-owned company in Rutland for more than 30 years. Their three sons, all certified oil technicians, continue the family tradition.

Ms. Stidsen said, "There are so many who are less fortunate. Through job loss or health issues, they need help. It could happen to any of us. Thank God so many are willing to give so we can help."

In its 72nd year, the T&G Santa Fund collects thousands of donations from generous readers and area residents to help buy toys for children in need in Central Massachusetts.

Children 12 and younger who would otherwise not receive any holiday gifts are eligible to receive two toys each. When signing up at an area agency, parents or guardians should bring personal identification for each family member and proof of address and income.

No applications will be accepted directly by the T&G.

Area agencies accepting applications for assistance include: the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities Family and...

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