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Saved by Santa, father commits to helping others
Local man goes full circle in "Letters to Santa" program, from helped to helping others

 Spotsylvania resident Alison Davis, 13, and her mother Glorymae Martin have adopted a child through the Letters to Santa Program for the Red Cross. Because of the economy there wasn^BENT^0027^EENT^t enough money to sponsor a child but Alison pitched in her birthday money plus proceeds from a garage sale to get Christmas presents for another child. (Mike Morones/The Free Lance-Star) ------ 4 columns color for a1 ------ 2 cols color
FILE/Mike Morones/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 11/26/2011

BY ROB HEDELT

Last year at this time, Joe was a troubled, desperate soul.

After working every day of his life since the age of 16, and serving his country in the military, the father and husband in his 50s was at the end of his rope.

The recession had eliminated his job in sales and marketing and its six-figure salary, and threatened his very way of life.

Instead of getting up every morning to go to work, the area resident spent most days juggling quickly disappearing assets to simply survive.

Joe, who asked that his real name not be used to protect his family's privacy, went on unemployment, but that didn't even cover his mortgage.

He went through his savings, cashed out his 401K and had to turn to friends for money to keep the heat and lights on.

With a 3-year-old and a wife out of the workforce, Joe said he applied for hundreds of jobs--from the type in sales he once had to every opening he could find in fast food, day labor or anything else.

The recession killed high-end opportunities; his work history made him a tough sell for minimal-wage jobs. By last Thanksgiving, he had been out of work for a year.

He was just days from foreclosure on his house when he opened the refrigerator one morning to find it entirely empty.

No food. No money for the next month's heat. Impending foreclosure making homelessness a very real threat.

"I had worked all my life, and never thought I would ever need help, but faced with the reality of not being able to care for my family, I went to social services to ask for help," said Joe. "It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do."

Despite his misgivings, Joe was pleasantly surprised by his reception there.

He was treated with dignity and kindness, getting money and other resources to keep the heat on, buy food and, for at least a little while, keep the wolf from his door.

One question that didn't really connect: Would he like to get holiday help for his son?


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Through this program operated by the local Red Cross chapter, more than 700 needy area children are "adopted" by local Santas who use wish-list letters from the children to pick out clothing and toys to give them a Merry Christmas. There are still children who haven't been adopted this year. To help, call 735-0502.