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Gifts of the Magi

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It was an idea we were more than happy to steal. Back in 1993, the staff of The Catholic Telegraph noticed a holiday campaign that had long been operating in the Diocese of Brooklyn with cooperation from The Brooklyn Tablet diocesan newspaper. The “Bright Christmas” campaign worked with Catholic Charities and other diocesan agencies to provide funds for families in need at the holiday season. 

Gifts of the Magi was born that year as a cooperative project between The Catholic Telegraph, the archdiocesan council of St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio.  In 17 years, Gifts of the Magi has grown beyond anything we could have imagined. Families have been helped with funeral expenses, medical bills, plane tickets to visit a dying family member, household appliances, utility bills and rent or mortgage assistance to keep them from becoming homeless. 
Last year, donations by readers of The Catholic Telegraph reached a new high, allowing many families to be helped. The campaign tries to use the money in ways that will allow families to bring about long-term change; Charities staff examines whether or not this will be a one-time assistance that can make a difference in lives and uses that criteria to make its “gifts.” 
Last year, several of our parishes in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati were inspired to use Gifts of the Magi cases for their Christmas giving trees, asking parishioners to donate a small portion of what each case needed. We are grateful to these parishes for their support and encourage others without such “trees” to do the same. 
Thank you most of all to our readers, for your generosity of money and spirit. It’s not hard to be moved by some of these needs, but being moved to action does require an effort, and we are grateful for yours.
At the age of 84, this man lives alone on a fixed income. His stove stopped working a while ago, and he is unable to replace it. While a microwave might be a cheaper solution, he is unable to use one because he has a defibrillator. He also suffers from stomach cancer. A simple gas range can be purchased for $349 to help make his life a little easier. 
This young single mother of two had to leave her apartment when the utilities were shut off due to non-payment. A dishonest relative took money to write a check in her name but bounced the check. She must pay additional money now to have service returned, a total of $586, and she and her children are relying on friends and family members for shelter at this time.  One child suffers from medical disabilities.  We would like to help them go home before Christmas. 
Both this husband and wife are disabled and unable to work. Living on a fixed income, they cannot afford extra-high utility bills following a hot summer or cold winter.  The gas company is threatening to cut off service if they do not pay the $244 they owe, and December has already been colder than usual. Ten gifts of $25 will keep their heat on this winter. 
This young college student, who suffers from sickle cell anemia, relies on part-time work and scholarships to keep her in nursing school. Recently her car required a major repair she cannot afford. But without the car she cannot get to class and doctor’s appointments. The best estimate received for the repair work is $734. 
This single mother of four has recently found a job, but after 10 months of unemployment, she owes more than $3,242 in back rent. Her landlord is working out a payment schedule to help her, but $375 is needed up front  as a good faith pledge.  
These two women have fled serious situations of domestic violence, and social service agencies and law enforcement officials relocated them to Ohio, far from their abusers. Both have children. All arrangements have been made for housing and security, but Catholic Charities in their city of origin has asked for assistance with the cost of transporting the families here. $432 is needed to help these women get a fresh and safe start. 
An 85-year-old woman is living in fear, stalked by a troubled nephew who broke down her door a few months ago. He is currently in jail, and she has an order of protection, but he will be released soon and she cannot afford to repair or replace the door. $1049 is the quoted cost to replace her broken door with one that offers some protection.
A young mother of two toddlers needs help paying for her late husband’s funeral. She lost her job earlier this year when she missed days because of her young son’s health; he needed surgery and follow-up care. At 22, this woman is dealing with grief from her husband’s suicide, unemployment, concerns for her children’s health and now mounting debt. $934 is needed to pay her remaining debt to the funeral home that handled her husband’s burial. Can you help?
This aging couple living in a rural area learned that ambulance and other emergency vehicles cannot reach their home because of the condition of their driveway, which is 200 feet long and all mud; they have been unable to push the husband’s wheelchair outside for the same reasons. Gravel is required to make their driveway passable.  Additionally, their water heater is leaking and must be replaced, but disability income will not provide for these needed items. The husband is a disabled veteran. $894.92 is needed to help these people make their home accessible. 
This single mother of four raised her children to adulthood and now supports herself by cleaning her apartment complex. One of her grown children was recently murdered, and it has fallen to her to pay the $3,400 bill for his funeral expenses. She has raised all but about $600. 12 gifts of $50 would pay off this tragic debt. 

People tell us that your gifts have made a difference in their lives . . . 

“Without your help, we couldn’t have made it and would probably have been homeless. According to the statistics, we were middle class. The economy crashed, and I haven’t worked in two years. We foreclosed on our home. But God has made a way. In a time when it seems like everything is going bad, it’s good to know that God’s people are out there and still care.  We pray that you continue to be a blessing to others!”


 “Thank you for helping me in my time of need. Without the help from you, I would now be homeless. Just as you gave me a hand up, I am now out and about giving hands up to those who need a little help.”


“Words cannot describe how grateful my wife and I are for your assistance. Things had gotten so bad that we were ready to give up.  You are angels — each and every one of you.”


“It was tremendous, what you did for our family!  You took my household out of disconnect status and allowed us to catch up on our bills. Your kindness will never be forgotten. I include you all in my everyday prayers. It means so much to us.”


“I had hope that was at zero. I was relying on God to send me angels of mercy, as people-wise there was no one I could turn to. I’m 100 percent alone in the world. Christ certainly sent you to be His hands in this.  We see no way, but He works in mysterious ways.”


“Because of your wonderful gift I have been able to continue my job search and attend all my recent interviews. I truly believe I am on my way to securing full-time employment. I don’t think I would be as close to my goal without the support of Gifts of the Magi during one of the most difficult times in my life. I will never forget how this gift has changed my life.” 




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