Final thoughts - and a few last gifts -for 'A Better Christmas'

January 11, 2006|by BOB MAGINNIS

Elsewhere on this page are a number of thank-you notes from people who were recipients of Christmas gifts from several anonymous donors.

It began when a small-business man whom I'd never met came to The Herald-Mail with $2,000 in cash and 20 copies of "Daily Readings from 'Your Best Life Now'" by Joel Osteen, pastor of a large church in Houston, Texas.

This man wanted me to give away the cash in $100 packages to readers who would win it by writing letters telling how they would use the cash to make "A Better Christmas."

I'm a little bit ashamed to say I expected a flood of scam artists, ready to take advantage.

Perhaps those folks don't read the newspaper. I was pleasantly surprised that the letters we received contained what seemed to be sincere wishes to do good for a friend, neighbor or relative who was lonely, ill or down on their luck.


The Friday after the first column appeared, I was called to The Herald-Mail's front door, where a man handed me $100 and told me to add it to the pot. That was the first of several $100 donations.

Then came a couple with $1,000 in cash and another 10 copies of Osteen's book. The final surprise came when an out-of-town company working in this area called and asked if they could send a check for $2,000.

Here's something I thought I would never say: Please don't send any more money. There are worthy organizations all over Hagerstown and Washington County with far more expertise and knowledge of the area's needs than I have.

Our donors' gifts enabled us to make more than 40 gifts, including some that were not described in the letters.

Just before Christmas, a church in Marion, Pa., sent out the call for help for a family in need and they got $100. Another family adopted by the Shiloh United Methodist Church got $500.

And there were some other instances of unexpected kindness as well. After reading a letter from a woman who wanted $100 to help a young mother who had run out of heating oil, someone called and asked for directions to her home, so they could have her tank filled.

If you've had that done recently, it isn't cheap, but I'm sure it was much appreciated.

That still leaves about $1,600. Here's how we're going to disburse it:

$250 will be used to buy diapers and baby formula for distributions through the Parent-Child Center, a United Way agency that works to prevent child abuse.

If you've ever been out of diapers or formula in the middle of the night, you know what an awful experience it can be to deal with a wet and/or hungry child. This gift will spare some moms that aggravation.

$250 to help the C-Safe Program (formerly the Hagerstown HotSpot program) buy a refrigerator for a working mother whose unit stopped working Monday night.

$500 to Anna Barbour of Hagerstown, who doesn't have a car, but whose sick child faces numerous trips to the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., for diagnosis and treatment of a variety of serious problems.

$500 to Habitat for Humanity, which helps families who couldn't otherwise afford a home get one using their own "sweat equity" during the construction process.

Twenty free tickets to Habitat's Jan. 28 pancake breakfast at Hagerstown's First Christian Church starting at 7 a.m. The tickets will be distributed through the C-Safe Program.

Just before I finished this column, I had a visit from Cathy Shanholtz, who had sought $100 to purchase video games for her grandson, Trenton Gower.

She delivered a letter, from which I've excerpted a few quotes.

"My grandson, the little boy who cannot use his arms or legs, was one of the people who received the $100 gift as well as a PlayStation2 game from another very generous and 'blessed angel' ...

"What a sight to see his face on Christmas morning, when he opened (along with my help), all of those new games," she said.

"Once again, let me say thank-you to all of you. Your generosity will never be forgotten. May God bless you all."

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

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