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One Last Christmas Miracle A Deserving Family Feels True Generosity Thanks To An Anonymous Donor

“We’ll Have To Muddle Through Somehow”

I am not sure why, but that lyric from “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” always gets me – something about the whole year being so heavy, but that weight being lifted at Christmas time. Family and friends gather. People are warmer to each other. For once, we really consider others over ourselves. It’s a great time of year. That is why putting away the holidays can be so depressing. The nutcrackers and ornaments go back in the boxes. The strings of lights are rolled up and tucked away in plastic totes, then moved back down to the basement. The tree is dragged to the curb, and we sweep up the needles that trail into the house.

All the work we spend hanging wreaths and buying presents, the frenzied trips to shopping malls – it gets exhausting.  We start out the Christmas season every year with the best of intentions, but we often forget the true meaning of the holiday by the time it is all over. The enthusiasm we feel for Christmas in November is long gone by New Year’s Day. The bills alone are enough to make most people happy to put Christmas to bed for another year.

All of those holiday specials that remind you to keep the Christmas feeling with you all through the year, it’s not an easy concept to swallow when you’re back to work or school in January. However, I ask that you put that string of lights down for a minute and stick with me for one last story. This year, a Christmas miracle happened right here in our midst at the Lutheran Settlement House (located at 1340 Frankford Avenue). Kelly Davis, Executive Director and Arianna Hall-Reinhard, Adult Literacy Program Coordinator at LSH, brought this story to our attention and we are happy to be able to share it with you.

The Mission of Lutheran Settlement House:

Established in 1902, Lutheran Settlement House (LSH) is a non-profit, community-based organization committed to serving vulnerable children, adults, and families living in Philadelphia. Over the past century, the programs and services offered by LSH have changed in response to the evolving needs of the community. However, the core mission of Lutheran Settlement House — “to empower individuals, families, and communities to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency through an integrated program of social, educational, and advocacy services” — has remained constant.

A Family In Need

Marisol Collazo-Hatcheft has been attending Lutheran Settlement’s tutoring program for the past few years. A St. Joseph’s University student tutors her twice a week, teaching her how to read and write in English. Marisol is incredibly committed to improving her English so that she can sit for her GED test and find a decent job. “It’s a really good place,” said Marisol of LSH, “It’s clean, and the people there are so nice.”

Marisol is a stay-at-home mom, caring for her mentally-disabled teenage daughter and twin 15-year-old boy and girl. It has been a tough year for their family. Sadly, her husband recently lost his job due to health problems. This year looked to be winding down to be a bleak one. The cost of Christmas presents puts a strain on all of us. We all have to juggle this time of year, shifting money around to make the holiday work. But what happens when there is no wiggle room, when there is nothing to shift? This kind of financial pressure could make anyone feel hopeless, desperate.

A Secret Santa

As with any good Christmas story, this one has that angel, the miracle, that moment when some unknown force puts the brakes on the misery and lifts us in the other direction. An anonymous donor contacted Lutheran Settlement House in December and asked the staff to identify a deserving family who could really use some help this holiday season. The only information I could unearth about this generous anonymous donor is that he was once a Fishtown resident.

The Lutheran Settlement House works with many needy families, so I can only imagine how hard it must have been to make this decision. However, Marisol’s family was identified by LSH staff. So on December 23, 2011, Marisol received individualized certified checks to pay her mortgage, water, electricity, and gas bills.

“I was so happy, so surprised that I cried,” Marisol exclaimed, “This gift helped me so much through these holidays. I can’t even put into words how much I appreciate what has been done for me and my family. I just want to give so much thanks!”

Esther Rowan, Development Manager at LSH, said of the donation, “We’re so thrilled for Marisol and her family, and so grateful to the donor for their generosity and graciousness in helping to make this Christmas miracle a reality. So many of the families served by Lutheran Settlement House are struggling to make ends meet, and often must choose between paying the bills or putting food on the table. The holidays are particularly difficult – especially for clients in our domestic violence program and our emergency family shelter. For someone to step up and offer to help a family in need as this donor did is a beautiful gesture that truly embodies the spirit of the holidays.”

I hope this story lingers with you a bit through the new year. I am sure if you ask around, there are many stories like it – stories of people reaching out to help those in need. As we muddle through the year, past holidays will most certainly get tucked away in our memories, just as the ornaments and decorations get tucked away in the basement. Still, maybe this year we can make a point to keep stories like this close and hold onto just a little bit of Christmas until next December.

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