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Holiday brightens for local Candle families

Gifts for this year's Light One Candle candidates continue to roll in as grateful agency officials tout the generosity of Rogue Valley Santas.

Earlier this week, a man called the Mail Tribune seeking information about how to donate to a specific Candle family some money that was left to him in a Christmas card pinned to his front door. The gentleman said he didn't need the $100, and he preferred it go to someone truly in need. How is that for holiday spirit?

Such acts of kindness occurred across the Rogue Valley during the 12 days of the Mail Tribune's Light One Candle series, agency officials say.

Pam Marsh of OnTrack Inc., an addictions recovery program, said she is extraordinarily grateful for the donations received on behalf of the Smith family, beginning with a beautiful tree, lights and ornaments.

"We extend our heartfelt thanks to members of the community for this extraordinary response," Marsh said in an email to the Mail Tribune.

The five children in the family received a toy from their wish lists. In addition, each will receive articles of warm clothing and a new pair of shoes in just the right size. Finally, the family was given several gift cards to local stores to purchase food, clothing or other items, Marsh said.

One family who participated in the Light One Candle effort made a shopping trip to a local department store with the Smith family sizes in hand, purchasing clothing and shoes for each child and the parents. Others brought bags into OnTrack's office filled with household goods, clothing and food, she said.

"We nominated the Smith family because we have observed the hard work these parents have invested into the recovery process, and we see the dedication and love they have for their children," Marsh said. "The community response we have witnessed will provide further inspiration to the Smiths as they continue their journey toward self-sufficiency, lifetime sobriety and a positive, healthy and nurturing family life."

CASA of Jackson County is offering thanks to the Rogue Valley community for giving the gift of hope to a deserving mother, Jill, and her two small children.

"Thank you to all of you for giving Jill an opportunity to exhale, rest and have the weight lifted from her shoulders for the next three months," said Daria Land of the Court Appointed Special Advocates program.

Donations helped provide rent and utilities through March 31. The family car is being repaired and outfitted with a new windshield and new tires. The family also has gift certificates for food, gas, diapers, car insurance and other necessities. It now has a beautiful Christmas tree and gifts for the children, Land said.

Land said CASA presented the community gifts from Light One Candle on Thursday.

"With tears in her eyes Jill said, 'The community is my angel. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am overwhelmed by the love and support and encouraging words. I thought I was alone. I think so differently of where I live now and I am forever grateful,'" Land said in an email.

Land said Jill wants to volunteer and give back once her crisis is past.

The Family Nurturing Center received a generous response to its Candle family's story about struggling with cockroaches and other disasters. More than $1,500 donated will help this family move into a new apartment. Numerous people brought in bags and more bags of new and gently used clothing, towels and bedding, as well as new toys and games for the girls. The family now has a new television and several children's movies.

"One woman brought in all the fixings for a fine holiday meal as well as items to stock their pantry," said Jessica Trimmer, of the respite nursery for families in crisis.

The Candle family also received boxes of cleaning supplies and several gift cards allowing the mother to buy new clothes for work and other needed household items, Trimmer said.

"It took a couple trips to deliver all of the goods to this family yesterday. The mother was misty-eyed as she repeated, 'Thank you, thank you!' while the girls excitedly pawed through new blankets and stuffed animals," Trimmer said.

Gerry Sea said the Community Works' nominated families struggling with domestic violence and sexual abuse likewise will enjoy a bountiful holiday, thanks to the generosity of the community.

"Thanks to a gift from the Rogue Valley Family Fun Center, several families will also get to have a day of fun together there," Sea said. "The support we received helps families to grow stronger and to heal. Thank you."

For Amanda, escaping an abusive marriage with her two children, community caring is healing. Santa brought a beautiful jacket for mom, gift cards for books and a gas card to go to holiday events. Her two boys received an MP3 player and science-related book, an offer for a science tour at Southern Oregon University (to be arranged later), and a science activity set.

"The kindness of the community is beyond what we could imagine," Amanda said. "Thank you for caring."

Julie is recovering from a sexual assault. She and her teen son Ryan received gift card for gas, cash for movie tickets and dinner, gift cards to Barnes & Noble and a journal and a cookbook.

"We are grateful for the support we have gotten and it helps both Ryan and I to believe in goodness, which is important to remember," Julie told Community Works staff members.

Jane also fled an abusive husband with her two young children, Thomas Jr. and Emily. Both kids got bikes. The little boy got the Thomas the Train toy he wanted. The little girl got her Dora doll and activities. Mom got journals, towels and blankets. Mom also got gift cards to get some more presents for the kids and a gas card.

Sea said Jane cried when she received the gifts for her family and said, "I never knew that I would end up needing help. Thank you to the community for showing your love and believing in us."

Kids Unlimited staff say it was an amazing Christmas season for their Candle families, thanks to the tremendous outpouring of generosity from the community.

Children received Legos, dolls, clothes and a multitude of other gifts. For some, this was the first time they've received any gifts under the tree.

"To bring gifts and food to families in need is a humbling experience and one that brings great joy to our hearts," Carrie Nelson of Kids Unlimited said in an email. "The joy on the faces of little children when they see brightly wrapped packages with their name on it and the endearing gratitude from parents is an overwhelming sense of joy to all KU staff who have the privilege to know and love our families. Thank you to all in our community who have graciously given. On behalf of our families, we appreciate your contribution and love you have shown."

No official tally was available late Friday on other Candle nominees. But it is a safe bet gifts continued to roll in.

In addition to Candle contributions, the HOPE (Helping Out People Everyday) Chest had its coffers filled to the tune of $4,505 — and counting.

Begun in 2009 in a partnership between United Way of Jackson County and the Mail Tribune, the Hope Chest is designed to help people with needs ranging from surgical stockings to wood for heating homes and rent and power-bill assistance, said Dee Ann Everson, United Way executive director.

"The Light One Candle series always lights thousands of candles," said Everson. "The season of giving has once again helped our community to respond as it always does to great need. People give and are touched in return."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.