Gifts of the Magi
Friday, December 4, 2009
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 15 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 persons from becoming homeless.
Last year, donations by readers of The Catholic Telegraph allowed Catholic Charities to assist a record number families.
The campaign tries to use the money in ways that will allow families to bring about long-term change; Catholic 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.
Thanks 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.
This older couple lost all of their possessions in a fire. The wife works, but the husband is out of work. Replacing their basics has been difficult, and emergency assistance has been exhausted. Now they have found a new apartment, but the first and last month’s rent required is $520.
Hospitalized twice in recent years following heart attacks, this older client is trying to pay off enormous medical bills. Adding to her stress is the hole in her roof that needs to be repaired — rain, wind, snow and other elements are currently coming in. She has obtained some financial help from family and from Council on Aging, but the final $850 is beyond her reach.
Visiting health workers report that the condition of this man’s ancient mattress is “disturbing,” with springs and coils exposed, but since the elderly man’s income and expenses are equal, there is no money for a new bed. Mental health issues are also involved, making the situation delicate. For $240 this situation can be remedied.
Following surgery, this young woman used up her limited disability time quickly and was faced with six more weeks during which she was unable to work. With no income, she got behind in rent and utility bills to the tune of $400. Her landlord tells us this is a hardworking lady who deserves a helping hand. Would you offer it?
This mother of three is currently in the middle of a divorce with a husband not providing any financial support. She works full-time, but caring for three children leaves her with no buffer for emergencies, such as when her car breaks down. $250 is needed to fix her car so she can keep her job, grocery shop for her children and get them to doctors’ appointments.
Multiple health issues, including spinal cord and nerve damage, make life a challenge for this 50-year-old woman. There are no family members who can help her purchase a new bed to offer her comfort. A replacement bed can be obtained for $238.95.
This young woman is such a good-hearted and hardworking person that her landlord has waived her rent until she gets back on her feet following a job loss. Making matters worse are a serious family illness and a non-working vehicle that means she cannot take this family member for medical treatment. $2998 is needed to repair the vehicle — small gifts will help chip away at this dilemma.
A 22-year-old mother of five children works fulltime, but several months of being out of work earlier this year left her behind in rent and energy bills, and her power was turned off. By providing her with rent money for two months, she can accrue enough to have her service restored. The amount of $950 is needed to stabilize her and her children.
This young couple, parents of a toddler, cannot hold the funeral of a 26-year-old relative who died unexpectedly, until the mortuary expenses are paid in full. They have assumed care of four children left behind, and the $475 remaining on the balance cannot be met with their added responsibilities.
Like so many in this economy, this woman’s hours have been cut back at work. She is a single mother of a one-year-old son, attends college on a part-time basis, and the loss of income has led to her falling behind in her rent, a first for this ambitious and hard-working young lady, whose landlord praises her efforts and behavior. $620 will keep mother and child in their home.
This 52-year-old woman, who is disabled and unable to work, has had difficulty coping with the responsibilities of living on her own since her mother died. She currently owes Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority $1,949 for utilities, and they will be shut off if she does not pay a sizeable portion, cutting off her oxygen concentrator and eliminating her ability to charge her electric wheelchair. $487 is needed to prevent this.
Necessities have become luxuries in these times. This young woman, who is employed, is five months pregnant and in need of a bed, lamps, a table and chairs and a dresser. Some items have been obtained for her in secondhand condition thanks to St. Vincent de Paul, but other items, such as the bed, need to be purchased. These items have been priced at $414.
Without a car, this single mother cannot look for a job. Without expensive repairs, her car will not run and has not done so for nearly a year. $964 is the repair estimate — an impossible sum when you’re out of work. She does not live on a bus line. Without the car, the cycle of unemployment will continue.
This single father of two has recently obtained a new job, but there is an obstacle — he must provide his own nursing scrubs to begin the job. The $153 required seems like an easy sum, but when you’ve been out of work and supporting children, it’s not easy. We’d like to help this hardworking dad start fresh. Wouldn’t you?
This mother of three was on bed rest for three months prior to the birth of her youngest child. She used all of her paid time off, and when that ceased, so did her benefits, including health insurance for herself and her children. She needs financial assistance in the amount of $1,205 to purchase medical insurance until she can return to work.
This man does not live on any bus line, is seeking employment and must meet regularly with a physician to monitor his medication. The tires on his car are worn to the point of being a hazard when he drives, and with the winter months looming, this is a concern. Four new tires for his car will cost $261.96.
After 19 years working for the same company, this woman lost her job early this year. Unable to find another fulltime job as yet, she has exhausted all savings and risks losing her apartment. She has worked part-time jobs and family has helped, but she cannot cover the rent at this time. $331 is needed to tide her over until a job can be found.
Escaping a difficult relationship, this woman has had her house foreclosed upon, and she is now homeless at the age of 56. She is employed, but her situation has created many expenses. Establishing a new residence requires a deposit as well as a payment toward the last month’s rent, a total of $1,050.
This family inherited an unexpected expense: the cremation and interment of an unmarried, uninsured uncle. They been able to cover all but $400, which is beyond their ability to pay on their fixed income. Can you help?
This mother of two young boys who have physical and learning challenges is unemployed; a friend who is mentally challenged and disabled has lived with her since the death of his mother last year. Parish nurses are monitoring them, but currently all members of the household are sleeping on the floor with no blankets, pillows or sheets. The epidemic of bedbugs locally has made secondhand beds impossible to find. Beds and bedding for the four have been priced at $1,325. With the onset of the cold weather, the boys’ ability to function in school without good sleep is a concern. Can you help?
This middle-aged man suffers from chronic back pain that has resulted in excessive absenteeism from work and the subsequent loss of his job. He does not qualify for unemployment, and the window for him to apply for workers’ compensation has elapsed. He has found part-time work to pay his rent but is in arrears for several months when he could not pay. Community service work allows him to get food and a bus card, but he cannot pay $2,803 in back rent and phone service.
This senior citizen suffers from scoliosis, gall bladder disease and other physical ailments. He is not eligible for Social Security benefits but has been in desperate need of a new bed for more than two years; he is sleeping on a couch following a bedbug infestation. His limited income makes it difficult to save for such necessities. $655 is needed to make him more comfortable.