Holidays are over, but the need doesn’t end

At my house, the Christ­mas stock­ings still hang from the man­tel, even though they are empty now and the treats they once held have moved in­to the main­stream of our daily lives.

On Monday, here in the North­east Times news­room, I took down the 10 thank you notes writ­ten by read­ers who had re­ceived gift cards from our an­nu­al hol­i­day cam­paign for the needy. Each of the thank you cards was un­ex­pec­ted, and yet so grat­i­fy­ing to re­ceive. We had taped them to a white board in the of­fice for all to read. 

I read them over one more time and I wanted to share their sen­ti­ments with you, the read­ers who con­trib­uted to the Elean­or Smylie Fund, be­cause you made these gifts pos­sible.

Here’s an ex­cerpt from my fa­vor­ite one: “What a won­der­ful sur­prise to have opened the let­ter and found a gift card! I did use it for Christ­mas din­ner and a small gift. … Since my let­ter I have ac­quired a job. I start on 1/7/13. … Thank you for people who still are kind and gen­er­ous to give to a needy mom. It will be paid for­ward.”

An­oth­er wrote: “I will nev­er for­get what you did for me.”

And yet a third one read: “This is the first time in my life I asked for help, and you came and helped us.”

The fi­nal ac­count­ing of the North­east Times’ Elean­or Smylie Fund for 2012 shows we took in $9,773 in dona­tions, and sent out $50 gift cards to 212 people or fam­il­ies and four or­gan­iz­a­tions that aid the needy.

I think this is an ad­mir­able ef­fort,  but I also know that this level of deep need doesn’t stop on the day after Christ­mas. I can still hear the des­per­ate voices of those who called ask­ing to be in­cluded in the fund. They told me of the trouble they were hav­ing land­ing a job, or that their car had broken down and they had no means of get­ting it fixed. For oth­ers, it was a fam­ily mem­ber’s chron­ic ill­ness that had drained every penny of their sav­ings and sapped their en­ergy, too.

What’s a news­pa­per to do?

One of our roles is to foster a sense of com­munity, and that we do well by run­ning this cam­paign. We con­nect our neigh­bors in need with those in a po­s­i­tion to help.

An­oth­er role is to provide vi­tal in­form­a­tion. So, to con­tin­ue this ef­fort bey­ond the hol­i­day, I’d like to in­vite those or­gan­iz­a­tions who are provid­ing safety net ser­vices aross the North­east to send us up­dated in­form­a­tion so we can print a monthly dir­ect­ory of where to find help. In a brief para­graph, tell us the name of your group, what ser­vice you provide, who is eli­gible and the best way to reach you.

But even this doesn’t seem to be enough.

When the news­pa­per’s former own­er, Elean­or Smylie, star­ted the com­munity fund 58 years ago, I’m sure she nev­er ima­gined how many people would be hurt by the deep re­ces­sion of 2008, or how long it would take the na­tion to re­cov­er.

So, I’d like to ask you, our read­ers, for your sug­ges­tions of what more the news­pa­per can do. How can we, as a vis­it­or to 110,000 house­holds every week, ex­tend the hol­i­day cam­paign to aid those in need 52 weeks a year? 

And what can you do to as­sist even one neigh­bor who could use a help­ing hand? Could you do it to­mor­row? Think on these things and let me know.


Two weeks ago, I asked read­ers wheth­er they read the Crime Log, and the re­sponse was over­whelm­ingly pos­it­ive. So, we will con­tin­ue to make room for that list­ing every oth­er week of all the crimes re­por­ted in the North­east.

I also re­ceived read­ers’ sug­ges­tions for new columns, in­clud­ing one titled “Ask the Teach­er.” As soon as space per­mits, I will be look­ing to add this new column to the pa­per. ••

Ed­it­or Lil­lian Swan­son can be reached at 215-354-3030 or lswan­

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