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Give someone a 'Better Christmas'

November 27, 2008

Why would anyone trust me enough to send me a couple of thousand dollars - no strings attached - to give away at Christmastime?

That's the question I first asked myself back in 2005, when a local businessperson, who wished to remain anonymous, approached me with a plan to give away $2,000 (in $100 increments) to people who would write letters.

Not just any letters, mind you, but letters that would finish this sentence: "If I had $100, I could make a better Christmas for someone by ..."

The 20 recipients also got a copy of "Daily Readings from 'Your Best Life Now'" by Joel Osteen, pastor of a large church in Houston, Texas, who also appears on TV.

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That first year was magical and humbling, too. Inspired by the first $2,000 donation, a second anonymous donor sent $1,000 and 10 copies of the Osteen book.

Then came two more donors, giving $100 apiece.

That gave us $3,200. But there were 40 requests. When the original donor heard that, he sent enough to cover everyone.

There's no guarantee that will happen this year. But to try to cover as many people as possible, our original donor has sent $3,000 and another donor, who also wishes to remain anonymous, has sent $1,000.

There are a few things that I need to say:

o This is not The Herald-Mail's money, but comes from private donors.

o The checks will not be issued by The Herald-Mail, nor will the transactions be guaranteed by the newspaper.

o There is no guarantee, implied or otherwise, that you will get any money if you write a letter.

But if you'd like to try, here's what we need:

o A letter, of 100 words or less, telling us how you would use $100 to make a better Christmas for someone.

o The letter should be sent by regular mail to Better Christmas, c/o Bob Maginnis, The Herald-Mail, 100 Summit Ave., Hagerstown, MD 21740. include your name, address and daytime phone number. No e-mails, please.

o The deadline is Monday, Dec. 8, at 5 p.m.

o Checks will be mailed as soon as possible.

o There are nine copies of the Osteen book available. If you are interested in one of them, we'll give them away on a first-come, first-served basis.

We'll print the letters of request, though we will remove the names of the people who will get the funds, to spare them any embarrassment.

Everyone knows someone who could use some help to cheer them up during the holidays. Think about the people you know and please write us a "Better Christmas" letter. Thank you.

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

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