Asking children and adults to do the right thing this Christmas

November 21, 2007|By BOB MAGINNIS

For the last two years, an anonymous local businessman has provided thousands of dollars in cash to some Herald-Mail readers, with one stipulation - they must first describe how they would use $100 to make someone's Christmas holiday better.

For another local man, who will also remain anonymous, that was an inspiration. His wife said he read all of the letters that we published and said what a good thing it was.

I'm quoting her because he has passed away. And his wife has now decided to do - in his honor - what he could never afford to do in his lifetime.

He did provide for his wife, leaving her with some insurance money. She and her parents came to see me recently to describe what they wanted to do with some of those funds.


Like our other anonymous benefactor, they want to give way the money, but not exactly in the same way.

She has purchased 50 gift cards from Wal-Mart, each worth $25. To get one, you must follow these rules:

· Be a child between the ages of 6 and 12.

· Write, in 25 words or less, how you would use the gift card to do something nice for someone this Christmas.

· Have your letter in by Monday, Dec. 1.

That's really not a whole lot of time, but then there isn't an endless supply of these cards, either.

We're asking those entering to send their entries by mail, so the donor will have some assurance that the letters are actually being written by children.

The Herald-Mail will publish the letters, after editing them for spelling and grammar.

But the final decision on who gets the gift cards will be made by our anonymous donor. We're only involved to prevent her and her family from being deluged by people seeking money.

If you're a parent reading this, please encourage your child to think about how he or she could help someone else during the holidays. It's a change from the usual situation, in which the child is asked what he or she would like as a gift, because it encourages the very young to think about someone in need.

Send letters to A Child's Gift, c/o Editorial Page Editor, The Herald-Mail. P.O. Box 439, Hagerstown, MD 21741. And please remember that the deadline is Monday, Dec. 1.

Please include your name, address and daytime phone number, so we can contact the winners.

For our adult readers, we urge them not to forget that there are other needs facing this community during this holiday season.

The first is the annual campaign for the United Way of Washington County. The campaign hit a bump in the road when the director hired to replace Dale Bannon resigned after only a few months. Fortunately, Rod Shoop, the former county administrator, stepped in to pick up the slack.

So where is the campaign now?

"We're at 46 percent of goal," said Leah Gayman, director of resource development.

"That means we're almost to $900,000 and we have another million to go" to hit goal, she said.

If you can help with a donation, call Gayman at 301-739-822, ext. 12.

If you'd like to learn more about United Way and its local member agencies, visit the organization's Web site at

There you will find a list of member agencies that deal with everything from disaster relief to drug addiction. Other agencies work to build character and promote healthy lifestyles for local youth and to help local seniors and their families deal with Alzheimer's disease and end-of-life issues.

All of this is overseen by a board of volunteers and every agency's audit is available for public inspection.

And, as I've said previously, if the plight of suffering people doesn't move you, consider giving so that if and when you or one of your friends or family members needs help, it will be there.

For example, the Community Free Clinic, which provides free care to the uninsured, had to stop seeing new patients for several months last year because of financial problems. Are you sure that you'll never be without health insurance?

If you give $500 or more, you're invited to a Leadership Gala, on Wednesday, Dec. 12, from 4 to 6 p.m. at Cortland Mansion, behind the new post office on Md. 60 (Leitersburg Pike).

The no-cost event is being sponsored by Rider Jet Center and Palate Pleasers Catering. To RSVP, please call 301-739-8200, ext. 12.

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

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