Although Halloween is just a day away, my mind is on Christmas.
As a child, I was annually caught up in the pre-holiday anticipation about what might be under the tree when the big morning arrived.
I couldn’t tell which year brought which gifts, but along the way I was greeted by a drum set (blue and sparkling), a sled (wood, with black runners), an electric football game (for those who remember) and a T-rex that was taller than me – at least at the time. My own kids could tell similar stories.
I’ve never been in a local home on Christmas morning when a child opens a gift that was there because of The Tribune-Democrat Santa Fund.
But I can imagine the scene – smiles and laughter, perhaps a few tears.
For several weeks, the nominations and donations have been rolling in like letters to the North Pole. The gracious people of this region have already contributed more than $5,000 to the 2011 program.
I am confident that by the Dec. 2 deadline, we’ll have surpassed our annual giving level of more than $20,000.
And, as in years past, the donations range from a few crumpled dollar bills from a woman who was also nominating her grandson to receive a gift, to a $1,000 check from an out-of-state supporter who asked to remain anonymous.
Now in its 5th year, the Santa Fund really is a yearly Christmas miracle.
And each year, the list of children we reach grows.
The recession means more and more people find themselves in challenging situations – downsized and downhearted.
The Alternative Community Resource Program is a key partner in the Santa Fund, reaching out to families through its various initiatives and developing our list of children.
ACRP’s Roselyn Brandon compiles that list, which last year reached a new high of more than 1,100 boys and girls ages 14 and under.
At the rate the forms are arriving this year, we could see another new high.
Beverly Bender, ACRP’s Family Center director, said the need for help is enormous.
“It has grown,” she said at a Santa Fund meeting last week. “A lot of people are out of work.”
Another key partner in this effort is the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, where the Santa Fund is housed and managed.
Executive Director Mike Kane knows that there have been severe cutbacks in government programs that help families with heat and food.
That means those families have even less money for such seemingly frivolous items as toys on Christmas.
“I was asked, ‘Why do you give toys away?’ Well, who else?” Kane said. “At least a family that’s really struggling has that to turn to.
“It’s not just a good thing. It’s something that is genuinely needed.”
Other players in the Santa Fund again this year include AmeriCorps – which provides volunteers; Boscov’s – our exclusive toy supplier; and Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania, where toys are sorted and bagged for distribution.
From Nov. 13 to Dec. 3, you can make a donation to the fund at Boscov’s in-store checkout locations.
The store also helps through deep discounts on toy purchases.
And in 2011, the Santa Fund has another candy-cane twist – showcasing the top high school soccer players from across the region in an event that will bring money to the fund.
The brainchild of Greater Johnstown School District’s Brian Vuletich, the Santa Fund Soccer Classic will be held on Nov. 20 at Trojan Stadium.
Proceeds will go to the Santa Fund, as we celebrate Christmas on the weekend before Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping.
It is our hope that the addition of the soccer classic will allow us to reach even more kids this Christmas.
But every individual contribution matters as much as ever.
Those of you who support the Santa Fund are sharing the spirit of the holiday with hundreds of local children who might otherwise be greeted on Christmas morning by little other than the chill of winter and the harsh reality of their family’s hardship.
We thank you.
And wish you a Merry Christmas.
Although Halloween is just a day away, my mind is on Christmas.
- Chip Minemyer
Chip Minemyer | Here’s why you should attend 12th district debate
When the candidates in the Democratic primary in the new 12th Congressional District get together on Monday, you should be there, too.
Chip Minemyer | Are you a tax procrastinator? The clock is ticking ...
Have you filed your taxes?
No, that was not an April Fool’s Day scare tactic.
Chip Minemyer | Only complete openness will guide Penn State back to the light
By the fall, we’ll presumably learn the findings of an extensive investigation by former FBI head Louis Freeh launched in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse allegations at Penn State.
Chip Minemyer | Shooting the messenger easier than accepting truth
Grief and frustration can make people do seemingly misguided things – including hurling unfair criticism at reporters simply doing their jobs.
Chip Minemyer | Moment of childhood innocence captured and shared
The photo came to me from out of my past, from a place I once knew, through the modern magic of Facebook.
Chip Minemyer | Author explores Mayan prophecies, end of world
Will the world end on Dec. 21 of this year?
Yes, says the Mayan calendar.
Maybe, says bestselling author Steve Alten, who has woven a compelling tale of corporate greed, government corruption and even alien visitors around the Mayan doomsday predictions.
Chip Minemyer | ‘A perfect match’: JAHA chief gets kidney transplant
In Florida, a young man tragically is struck by a car and dies.
And in Pennsylvania, another man gets a new lease on life – thanks to the generosity of organ donation.
Chip Minemyer | Getting ‘Airborne’ to promote heart health
A man who has lifted the hearts of many Pittsburgh Penguins fans will be in Johnstown soon to help elevate the cause of heart health.
Chip Minemyer | Paterno funeral shines spotlight on spiritual center
Some 15 years ago, Mark Pasquerilla sat across a table from Joe Paterno and discussed with the legendary football coach how a business family from Johnstown could help Penn State expand its religious center on campus.
Readers' Forum 1-22 | Shade group shared its Christmas spirit
I am a member of the Cairnbrook Community Club in Shade Township and also its board of directors. I would like to acknowledge their help in assisting a local family over the holiday season.
- More Chip Minemyer Headlines
- Chip Minemyer | Here’s why you should attend 12th district debate