New Effort Invites Area Veterans to Free Christmas Party with Full Meal Dec. 23

Veterans this year are able to enjoy a free Christmas party with a full meal and desserts thanks to efforts of veterans’ organizations, families and others. The Christmas Party aims to bring veterans and their guests together to meet other fellow veterans, make new friends, provide ongoing resources and acknowledge veterans’ service to the country. It takes place Thursday, Dec. 23, from noon-2 p.m., at AmVets Post 147 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Lorraine Post 29, 576 Primrose St., Haverhill. The planning committee extends an invitation to all veterans from Haverhill and surrounding communities.

Local Bus Rides Become Free Next March; Federal Relief Money Will Cover Fares

Taking a local bus will be free starting next March as the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority begins a two-year pilot aimed partly at winning back riders lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. Transit Authority board members voted unanimously Wednesday to go fare-free for all local fixed route and EZ Trans paratransit services starting March 1. Fares will still be collected on the Boston Commuter bus. The Transit Authority is replacing fares lost during the pilot with federal money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act and American Rescue Plan Act. Bus service officials noted the loss of fares is not as significant as one might think because of the “high cost and inefficiency of collecting fares.”

“For every dollar we collect in fares, we only see less than 24 cents when the fully allocated costs of collecting fares are factored in,” said MVRTA Administrator Noah Berger.

Whittier Tech Students Raise Endangered Blanding’s Turtles in Partnership with State

Students at Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School are raising two baby turtles during this school year through a state program that seeks to protect endangered species. Pinky and Shelldon are Blanding’s turtles, which live in freshwater and are considered among the most endangered turtles in the northeast. They arrived at Whittier Tech in October through a program operated by the state Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. The Parker River Clean Water Association in Byfield, supported by grants from the Massachusetts Natural Heritage Endangered Species Program and the Mass Environmental Trust, collected hatchlings along the upper Parker River for care. “The turtles have quickly become part of the Whittier community.

Haverhill Public Library Training Program Dec. 6 Helps Seniors Avoid Scams

The Haverhill Public Library presents “Savvy Senior: How To Protect Yourself From Becoming A Victim Of Scams” with a representative of the Massachusetts Attorney general’s Office next Monday. The training discusses how to avoid financial exploitation, spot scammers and find protection online. It takes place Monday, Dec. 6, from 1 to 2 p.m. It is presented by Attorney General Maura Healey’s Community Engagement Division. Those seeking more information or to register may visit haverhillpl.org and look under Calendar of Events.

Haverhill Republican Committee Plans Children’s Photo Op with Santa Claus

Children may have their photographs taken with Santa Claus and snack on chicken fingers, fresh fruit and cookies and milk during a Haverhill Republican Committee event open to the public. The Committee invites residents to meet local Republican members and enjoy the Christmas and holiday season with singing children and fun on Saturday, Dec. 11, from noon-2 p.m., at Roma Restaurant, 29 Middlesex St., Bradford. Admission is $15 per family. Those with questions may call Chair Jeri Levasseur at 978-807-2773.

Haverhill Council Largely Backs Lupoli’s Downtown Plan; Talks on to Buy City and Private Land

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini and developer Salvatore N. Lupoli will attempt to hammer out an agreement for the Lupoli Companies’ purchase of about 4.5 acres of City downtown land for a $160 million mixed housing and retail development. Haverhill city councilors did not specifically vote to select Lupoli from among five proposals during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. They appeared, with a couple of notable exceptions, however, to largely back the company’s revised plan for replacing the Herbert H. Goecke Jr. Memorial Parking Deck and surrounding parcels. Whatever emerges from negotiations is still subject to approval by the City Council. The city also isn’t the only one negotiating with Lupoli.

Haverhill Firefighters Raise $14,000 for Muscular Dystrophy Association with Three Events

Haverhill firefighters did much more than “Fill the Boot” last Labor Day for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Members of Haverhill Firefighters Local 1011 recently presented the organization with $14,000. Firefighters made the presentation Friday, Nov. 19, “continuing with a longstanding tradition of raising awareness and money for causes that particularly help children.”

Firefighter Ryan Fairbanks told WHAV the money was raised during three separate efforts— the annual “Fill the Boot” drive and “Spray a Firefighter,” both over Labor Day Weekend, and Annual Cornhole Tournament Oct. 2.

Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce Holiday Mixer Tuesday, Dec. 14

The Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce is having its Business Networking and Referral Holiday Mixer Tuesday, Dec. 14, at the Lanam Club. The annual event features appetizers, business card drawing for door prizes and raffles. Admission is $10 for members and $20 for guests. It takes place from 5-7 p.m., at the Lanam Club, 260 N. Main St., Andover.