Spirit of Christmas blesses Inland Empire families
There was plenty to smile about as cheerleaders for the Inland Empires 66ers minor league baseball team popped in to help patients decorate the Gingerbread Village.
For the 15th consecutive year, a group of staff volunteers from Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital reached out to needy Inland Empire families in 2007.
According to Alane Allbee, RN, a pediatric nurse from unit 5100 and unofficial coordinator for the spirit of Christmas, the results this year are more gratifying than ever.
“You can’t measure something like this in dollars and cents,” Ms. Allbee observes, “but you can see it on the faces of the children we help on Christmas morning.”
She points out that in 2007, staff members from units 4200, 5100, 5200, and 5300 collaborated to bring a variety of home appliances and other gifts valued in excess of $7,000 to a total of three needy families in the Inland Empire and one foster child.
“We were planning to bring gifts to all three of the foster children living at the home,” she notes, “but two of the kids got adopted just before the holidays.”
Ms. Allbee says the spirit of Christmas volunteers changed their focus in 2007 in order to identify and meet the needs of whole families, instead of just buying toys for the children.
“In the past, we bought mostly gifts from the kids’ wish lists,” she says, “but this time, we focused first on family needs that we could meet, then on the kids’ specific needs, and after that, on items from their wish lists.”
As a result, the spirit of Christmas volunteers bought washers and dryers, an App
Musicians from the San Bernardino Symphony serenade the crowd. Carlo Ponti Jr., son of filmmaker Carlo Ponti and actress Sophia Loren, conducts the symphony.
le computer, pots and pans, towels, shoes, children’s clothing, and underwear, and $200 gift certificates to the grocery stores of their choice this season. “Those were items that the families identified as real needs,” she offers. “Of course, we also bought lots of toys for the kids, too.”
The spirit of Christmas originated in 1992 with a suggestion from Children’s Hospital administration that employees should become involved in identifying particularly needy families and making Christmas meaningful for the children of those families.
“It started out fairly simple,” Ms. Allbee insists, “but it’s gotten progressively bigger and bigger because we have more people involved. We get financial support not only from employees and members of their families, but also from printing services, the campus bookstore, and Children’s Hospital administration. Even the Brownies help out. Troop 798 of Huntington Beach makes the spirit of Christmas one of its projects. There are just lots and lots of generous people who bring cash or gifts to make this such a success.”
When pressed for numbers of individual contributors, Ms. Allbee says there are too many to quantify. “I don’t know how many contributors we have,” she notes. “One man, the business manager for one of our volunteers, heard about the spirit of Christmas and sent us a check for $250. It’s wonderful how many generous people there are
Santa pays a call on a friend at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital. For his day job, Santa works as a radio personality at KCAL 96.7 FM.
Ms. Allbee notes that none of the spirit of Christmas volunteers—including the 40 who recently banded together to deliver 2007’s bumper crop of gifts—accept a penny for their services.
“Nobody gets paid for gas or anything,” she says. “If there’s any money left over at the end of one year, it gets rolled over to the next.”
The results of the spirit of Christmas project are apparently long-lasting. “One of the families we visited seven years ago had a son who was chronically ill,” Ms. Allbee recalls. “To make matters worse, his dad had just lost his job and the family had no money for Christmas. We took gifts over to the house when the kids were in school.
“When we got there,” she continues, “the mother ushered us into the room with the Christmas tree.”
She adds, “It was completely bare. We left a letter on the tree from Santa telling the children that he wanted them to have a really wonderful Christmas and knew this was an especially tough year for them.”
Ms. Allbee catches her breath before continuing. “The kids were ecstatic! They thought Christmas was going to be very bleak that year, but instead they got all these neat gifts.”
She continues, “What impressed me was that just the other day, I got a call from the mother—seven years after the fact—to say that the kids still remember that Christmas and talk about it from time to time.
“Until this year, she had never told them who Santa was that year. When they found out, they were very grateful. That was very nice to hear.”
Individuals who would like to participate in the 2008 spirit of Christmas are invited to contact Alane Allbee by e-mail at <email@example.com>.
By James Ponder
Volunteers from the 2007 spirit of Christmas project congregate on the stairs of an apartment home where they delivered Christmas gifts to a family in need. According to Alane Allbee, the project involves countless individuals including employees, members of their families, friends, business partners, and a Brownie troop.