Neither snow, nor sleet, nor rain, nor the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can keep angels from doing good deeds. We've had all of these conditions since The Morning Call's Be an Angel wish list was published on Nov. 28, yet kind-hearted souls throughout the region have found a way to do something good for others.
Angels are literally blanketing others with love.
Easton, which hoped to collect 220 blankets to distribute to needy families and individuals this holiday season, collected 325 blankets from caring angels earning their wings.
''Each person giving one or two blankets was important because, together, each of us helps collect what we need to help our neighbors in need,'' says Faith Brenneisen, communications director at ProJeCt of Easton. One angel, a volunteer who delivers food for the organization, donated 50 blankets. And a group of teenage girls at KidsPeace Patriot Center who read about the ProJeCt's ''Blanket Easton with Love Campaign'' in the Be an Angel wish list, raised $350 to purchase 54 blankets for the agency.
Each year, the children at KidsPeace participate in a holiday project to raise funds to do something good for others, says Audra Hochreiter, therapeutic recreation counselor at KidsPeace. During the fall, they made and sold craft items to raise the money, then had a hand in deciding how the money was used.
This year, they told Hochreiter that they'd like to help children and homeless people. So Hochreiter went to the Be an Angel list on The Morning Call's Web site, www.mcall.com, and typed in the keywords for agencies that serve those causes. From the list, the girls picked ProJeCt of Easton, knowing their efforts would benefit both concerns. Earlier this week, they shopped for the blankets, which will be delivered today to help keep people warm this holiday season. ProJeCt also received some $10 gift cards to Payless Shoes, another wish on its list.
''These girls and everyone who has thought of those less fortunate this holiday season bring new meaning to 'good will toward man,''' says Brenneisen.
KidsPeace, in turn, was blessed by Be an Angel donations. The response to the wish list ''has been wonderful,'' says Leah McKernan at the children's agency, who wishes to thank all the generous angels for helping to make the children's wishes come true. ''To date we've received lots of toys, games and art supplies; a piano and various musical instruments; all kinds of sports equipment; boxes of books and encyclopedias that have been distributed to our school libraries, and a group of children are donating gifts from their confirmation class.''
Angels are making children's wishes come true through donations to other agencies, as well. The Youth Advocate Program in Northampton County received a drum set for a child age 3 or older from Mystique Hair Design and a $25 gift card for Kmart from ''an angel.''
St. Luke's Pediatric Rehabilitation Department received donations from two more angels. One dropped off the plastic containers requested on their wish list and the other, two plastic bins filled with art supplies. ''We've had angels respond to all three of our wishes,'' says a very grateful Grace Ocampo at St. Luke's North.
The scouts in Boy Scout Troop 431 of Concordia Lutheran Church, Macungie, earned their wings helping other boys and girls. The troop collected and delivered 188 sets of hats and mittens to the Boys and Girls Club of Allentown, making a huge dent in the club's wish for 200 new hats, gloves, scarves or earmuffs for children. The club also received donations from six families toward scholarships for low-income children to attend its holiday camp, which costs $54 for each child. These wonderful angels provided enough funds to send 57 children to camp, keeping them off the streets during the holiday school break, says our contact, Pat Johnson.
Yet another youth agency, Families First, had one of its needs addressed. ''Our wish for stickers was abundantly fulfilled by a reader,'' says director Sandra Gaspar. ''The angel who responded delivered a whole case with 2,000 stickers that will be used in several of our programs, including a life skills class and an intergenerational mentoring class.'' The Pen Argyl agency still needs a portable easel and mentors, age 50 and older, to build one-on-one relationships with fifth- and sixth-graders in the Slate Belt area.
And Jane Trotter, director of programs at the Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley, reports three responses to her organization's request for volunteers to fill Holiday Hope Chests for needy children in the Valley.
ProJeCt of Easton was not the only agency ''blanketed'' with love.
Step By Step Inc., which serves people confronting mental retardation and mental-health issues, also received blankets, as well as sheet sets, from angels who identified themselves as the Sextons, says our contact, Joyce Delazio. And two angels, Ann Dalton of Easton and Brian Yurasits, have volunteered to help Step by Step with their Web design. They agency also received a donation toward another wish on its list hygiene products, including towels, soap and shampoo, from an angel who wishes to be known only as J.D.
Wishes for much-needed refrigerators were filled for two organizations this week. Ruby Scott of Coopersburg donated one to St. John's United Church of Christ to use during its Community Outreach benefit, according to Bob Wuesthoff, our contact. And, Carol Weber, who resides in the Slatington area, gave a refrigerator to Agape New Testament Fellowship Food Bank (a Second Harvest food bank). She donated other items, including furniture, which the Rev. Dave Farnholz says he was able to distribute where needed.
Care Net Pregnancy Centers of the Lehigh Valley received help from an angel who wished to remain anonymous. He dropped off a check for $400 for the center to purchase a dehumidifier for its basement to keep its supply of baby items from getting moldy. The angel told Irma Longworth, our contact at the agency, that he believes in what Care Net is doing and wants to support it.
This week, an angel delivered very much needed conference table and chairs to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, reports Jana Boyer, campaign director for the agency. The very gently used furniture would retail for $3,000 an expenditure the organization would never be able to afford, she says. Three or four angel families people who've used the society's services in the past made monetary donations of $400 to $500 to be used to help patients and their families.
Development coordinator Laurie Geist says the Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living has received several items on its wish list four printers to hook up to computers that have been refurbished for people with disabilities, a printer/fax/copier and $50 in grocery cards to pass on to consumers in need.
The American Red Cross of the Greater Lehigh Valley was ''an immediate beneficiary'' of the Be an Angel campaign, says Janie Osborne, the organization's director of communications and marketing.
The day after Thanksgiving, the same day the wish list was published, Osborne was greeted upon her arrival at work with a phone message from Sandra Diaz-Thomas of Bethlehem, who wished to give the Red Cross a ''gently used 27-inch color TV perfect for our training needs,'' says Osborne. The following week, two Red Cross ''volunteer angels,'' a couple who dedicate a full day a week to the organization's emergency services department, told Osborne they were purchasing a new TV for the Red Cross, providing the second of four 27-inch or larger televisions needed for training and community education classes.
The Weller Health Education Center received ''two nearly new lateral file cabinets and other much-needed office equipment from Dr. Joseph Gackenbach of Allentown,'' reports the center's contact, Barbara Ann Shotwell.
Despite this abundance of giving, so many more wishes need to be filled. There's still time to make the holidays happier for those in need. If you haven't held on to the wish list published on Nov. 28, you can find it on The Morning Call's Web site, www.mcall.com. Click on the Be an Angel icon to find a database that will help you search the list by agency, category (Health Care, Family, etc.), location, keywords and even the item you'd like to donate. The campaign continues through Jan. 2.
Once again agencies, if you have received donations that haven't been reported, please notify us so we can share your good news. And angels, if you've made a donation we haven't mentioned, we'd like to hear from you, too.
Irene Kraft, Lifestyle Editor