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A Network of Giving

For the past six years, Clint and Cadi Thomas of Central Point have given food and gifts to an indigent family at Christmas time.

This year, Cadi Thomas posted an ad on Craigslist, looking for a needy family to help during the holidays. The pleas for help that poured in transformed the Thomas family tradition into a community effort that will help hundreds of families.

Thomas received more than 400 responses to an ad she posted the day after Thanksgiving.

The stories in the e-mails were heartrending:

  • There was a single mother who couldn't afford a Christmas tree.
  • A homeless family who lost their home and had to stay with a relative after the father was laid off and the mother had to quit her job because of pregnancy complications.
  • And a mother reuniting with her 13-year-old son after overcoming a drug addiction.

"I never imagined it would get as huge as it did," she said. "It shows how many people are in need out there."

After eight hours of reading the first e-mails from respondents, Thomas said she didn't know how she would select just one family to receive a Christmas tree, food and gifts.

"I went to my husband, and I said, 'I can't let them down,'" she recalled. "There's got to be some way to provide Christmas for all of the families."

Thomas spent a mostly sleepless night poring over Craigslist to find bikes for some of the children and e-mailing sellers to let them know she would like to purchase the items for needy families to find out if they would give her a discount.

That effort brought her several donations.

One of the most striking e-mails she received came from Alan Suire, one of only two men who responded to Thomas' ad offering help for needy families.

Suire, a seasonal worker at Sabroso, fell on hard times and was living in a Medford motel room with his wife and two young sons. He said he barely made ends meet and couldn't afford to buy his two sons, ages 3 and 5, Christmas gifts.

Thomas, her husband, her three children and their nanny pitched in to buy the family a miniature lighted Christmas tree, food and games for the children.

The Thomas family waited until nightfall so they could watch the Suire family's reaction when they saw the gifts. They delivered the gifts to their door, tapped on the door and retreated to a large pickup truck parked nearby where they could watch.

"Alan and his wife hugged and cried for about five minutes, and the little boys were bouncing on the bed," said Paloma Samdoval, the nanny. "It was so exciting to see."

Suire wrote to Thomas a week later to tell her how much the gifts had meant to him and his family. He also said he had been diagnosed with throat cancer a few days after the gifts had arrived.

Suire said the Thomases reminded him that there are caring people in the world, which was especially comforting when he was diagnosed with throat cancer. He is scheduled to undergo chemotherapy and is expected to recover.

"There are human beings in this world, and that lady is definitely an angel," Suire said.

Thomas said Suire's e-mail inspired her to continue fulfilling the wishes of the other needy families who had contacted her.

She posted another ad on Craigslist asking others to donate items to give to the multiplying number of families who were filling up her inbox.

People began showing up at the family's tire business, C & C Tires Inc., on Crater Lake Avenue, to drop off donations, she said.

"I had one girl named Angela — I don't know her last name — who dropped off bags and bags of stuff and then, came back with new stuff," Thomas said.

Toys and other donations have since piled up in the Thomas family's home, in Cadi's mother's home and in the couple's tire business, of in Central Point.

Other businesses that heard about the effort also pitched in, including Advantage Tire, Mt. Ashland Inn, Combined Transport Inc., Annie's Cafe and Salon Static. Advantage bought toys and clothes for 50 children, Thomas said.

"We've had an amazing response," she said.

This weekend, Thomas and her band of volunteers will begin delivering the children's toys for Christmas morning. One of their stops will include Suire's motel room, where Thomas said she hopes to meet the Suire family face-to-face for the first time.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.

Jennifer Pietzke and her husband Alan Suire and their two children, William, 3, left, and Wesley, 5, are living in a motel room in Medford. He has multiple schlerosis. They are receiving gifts for Christmas after they responded to an ad Clint and Cadi Thomas of Central Point placed on Craigslist. Jim Craven 12/17/2008 - Jim Craven