When we launched the annual Christmas appeal in mid-October, our goal was simple — to raise more money and help more people than we did last year.
Thanks to the generosity of our readers, we have done just that.
This season, we have mailed $50 gift cards to 212 people or families and four social service organizations that work with families in need. In 2011, the Northeast Times’ Eleanor Smylie Fund assisted about 120 families and three organizations.
The amount of donated money also increased this year, to $9,488, up about $2,000 over 2011.
That felt great for those of us who worked on the appeal. But what really matters is the individual stories behind the numbers. Those stories came weekly in our mail, from people who told us they needed help buying food for a Christmas dinner or toys for their kids.
We learned about an ironworker who suffered a bad injury on the job, spent weeks in rehab and his family was having trouble making ends meet. We heard from a single mom who told us she is “hoping and praying every day that the lights, water and gas don’t get turned off.”
One mom told us how hard it was for her to ask for help for her 5-year-old daughter. “I finally swallowed my pride and decided to write to you.”
One fellow even asked us not to tell his wife that he had written for help, and we obliged.
The letters were often poignant, and most heartwarming of all were those who wrote asking for help for a neighbor or friend, and not for themselves.
In addition to the many requests for help, the weekly mailbag brought us check after check from readers who were on solid ground and looking for a way to give back. Others wanted to honor the memory of a loved one. We published the names of every donor who would allow us to do so, our very own “readers hall of honor.”
Thanks to all the donors, we know that dozens of children had the excitement of unwrapping a gift on Christmas morning. Just as important, their parents could watch as a look of wonder crossed their son’s or daughter’s face.
This year’s Christmas appeal proves once again that the Great Northeast has a big, beating heart.
Happy New Year to all. ••
Eleanor Smylie Fund Donors
This week’s donors are:
• Heidi Bowman: $25
• Walter Dombrowski: $20
• Helen Hanto: $10
• Bonnie Hughes: $100
• Justice for Families and Children: $60
• The Stecher Family: $40
• Margaret Whitlock: $10
• In memory of Joe and Betty Shields: $25
• In memory of Angelica, Regina and Bridget Shields: $25
• Anonymously: $25