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Needs great this Christmas
'Letters to Santa' and other Christmas assistance programs have great need this year

Date published: 11/9/2008

By Rob Hedelt

THE "Letters to Santa" notes, part of the local Red Cross program that assists needy children at Christmas, pull at the heartstrings.

A 12-year-old girl wrote that the past few years have been rough for her, as she has lost family members including her dad.

"It would mean a lot if you could get me a few items from my list," wrote the young lady, attaching a typical child's holiday hope collection: lip gloss, a winter jacket and "realistic fiction" books.

Often, it's the parents who pen the letters, which adoptive Santas use to buy gifts for the youngsters.

"I am a single, working Mom and it is very hard this year trying to give my girls a Christmas," said another letters. "This will help me out and my [girls] will love it," wrote the mom.

Or this, from the mother of a 2-year-old boy.

"Anything he gets will be appreciated, loved and passed on when he is done loving it."

Starting tomorrow, the local Red Cross office in the Southpoint shopping center at Massaponax will begin the adoption process that runs through Nov. 26. This is the 20th year for the program in our area.

This year, there are 765 needy youngsters, ages 1 through 12, in Fredericksburg and the counties of Stafford, Spotsylvania, King George, Caroline, Westmoreland, Orange and Essex.

Other large Christmas-assistance initiatives for children include the Salvation Army's Angel Trees and programs through the social services departments in Stafford and Spotsylvania.

The scary thing this year: the overwhelming, growing need out there as a worsening economy threatens to overwhelm programs.

Officials from these programs estimate they'll serve 13,000 people this year. The lion's share of them are children who won't have a holiday without the help.

Kristen Taylor, volunteer resources coordinator at the Red Cross, said the agency caps the number of letters to Santa at 765 because they know it's a reachable goal.

"We've changed things a bit this year, directly asking on our form if the child needs a winter coat," she said. "If the answer is no, we ask our Santas to simply get toys or other items on the list, only purchasing clothes if the child has that on the list."


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RED CROSS: LETTERS TO SANTA

Children's letters are available at the Red Cross office at 4836 Southpoint Parkway on weekdays from tomorrow through Nov. 26, with special Saturday hours Nov. 15, and at Porter Library in Stafford on Nov. 22. To get hours or do an adoption by phone, call 540/735-0500.

SALVATION ARMY: ANGEL TREE PROGRAM

By Friday Angel Trees will be at Wal-Mart stores at Massaponax, Central Park, Ferry Farms and Garrisonville; Chick-fil-A in Central Park; Cracker Barrel at Massaponax; Giant stores on U.S. 17 and Garrisonville Road; Spotsylvania Towne Centre at the Belk entrance; and BJ's Wholesale Club. To get an Angel Tree name mailed to you or for more details, call 540/373-3431.

STAFFORD SOCIAL SERVICES: ADOPT-A-FAMILY

Call 54/658-8732.

SPOTSYLVANIA SOCIAL SERVICES: HOLIDAY HOPE

Call 540/507-7896.