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'Better Christmas' event ends with last big surprise

December 16, 2005|by BOB MAGINNIS

How does one decide, based on words in a letter from someone you've never met, whose need is greatest?

That was our dilemma earlier this week when we looked at the 40 letters we received in the "A Better Christmas" contest.

It began with an anonymous donor's gift of $2,000 and 20 copies of "Daily Readings from 'Your Best Life Now'" by Joel Osteen, pastor of a large church in Houston, Texas.

The book had inspired him, he said, and he wanted to share it and some cash with Herald-Mail readers who would describe, in about 100 words, how they would use $100 to give someone a better Christmas.

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That one donation inspired another couple, who gave $1,000 and 10 copies of Osteen's book. Two others made donations of $100 apiece. All wanted to remain anonymous.

That left us with $3,200. But we had 40 letters. Who would we say yes to? And who would we have to disappoint?

Here's the amazing answer: Nobody will be disappointed. On Wednesday, the original donor called and asked me how many letters we had received and how much cash we had on hand.

I told him we had 40 letters and $3,200, enough to provide 32 people with $100 apiece.

He then said he would bring in more money and more books so that no one would have to be disappointed.

I was stunned. Someone I had never met has provided 40 Herald-Mail readers with the opportunity to make Christmas a little easier for those who are lonely or hurting in some way.

I wish I could reveal this man's name, but he told me he didn't do it for the publicity, but because he's been blessed and wants to share his blessings with others and perhaps inspire them.

Thanks to all our donors and those who will use this money to make this Christmas a better one for others.

Here's a list of the winners:

· Helen Willis

· James M. Sines

· Elizabeth K. Budny

· Cathy Shanholtz

· Albert Strauss Jr.

· Linda Schelling

· Sally Lynn

· Jim Rosko

· Amy Myers

· Jane Smith

· Beth Plume

· Pat Myers

· Macayla Wiles

· Tammy Mowery

· Linda Seibert

· Megan Smitzer

· Luke Therrien

· Mary Coulby

· Thelma Brewer

· W. Valroy Redick

· Myrdell Lancaster

· Rick Knepper

· Autumn Bricker

· Nancy Condry

· Jen King

· Carly Hartman

· Brittany Eberly

· Jimmy Smyly

· Rachel K. Shirk

· David Kidd

· Randolph Brewer

· Cassie Johns

· Meredith Johnson

· Travis Hendershot

· Victoria Key

· Kristin Hoffman

· Tiffany Dudick

· June Crippen

· Debrah Siarkowski

· Nicole A. Smith

Thanks to all who sent letters. Checks and copies of the Osteen book will be available at The Herald-Mail beginning on Monday, Dec. 19. Please call 301-791-7622 ahead of time so we'll be sure to have someone here to meet you.

Checks will be made out to the person who wrote the letter. Although they will be written by the Shiloh United Methodist Church, the church is only ac ting as a pass-through and no church funds are involved.

Because of the cost and time involved, The Herald-Mail cannot ship books and checks. Thank you.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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