Help bring the gift of joy

  • Posted: Sunday, November 24, 2013 8:18 p.m.
Editor Spencer Murphy looks up from his typewriter at the Salisbury Post in the 1950s.
Editor Spencer Murphy looks up from his typewriter at the Salisbury Post in the 1950s.

Thanksgiving week in Rowan County brings cherished traditions: holiday parades, turkey dinners, family time and, here at the Post, the kickoff of the Christmas Happiness Fund.

We hope Post readers will once again make donations to help children whose families are struggling. Thousands of Rowan County youngsters know hardship and scarcity all too well. With your help, they can also know the joy of Christmas.

Each year, from Thanksgiving to Christmas, readers drop off or send us their donations for the fund. Contributions range from preschoolers’ pennies to philanthropists’ checks, with thousands of donations in between. All reflect the huge heart this community has for helping others.

And the statements that come with those donations say even more ­— honoring loved ones and mentors, remembering those who made our lives special, sending gestures of love and compassion to the less fortunate in our community.

Our Christmas Happiness tradition started in 1952 with the great compassion of one man — Spencer Murphy. Then editor of the Post, Murphy was known as an easy touch for people needing a kind word, a cup of hot coffee or a few dollars to tide them over. So he was spurred to action when Lucille Donnelly, head of the welfare department, told him Christmas would be no different from any other day for hundreds of Rowan children. Their families could barely scrape together money for food and shelter; gifts were impossible.

Murphy responded with an editorial headlined “Help!” and asked readers to give to a new Christmas Happiness Fund to help those children receive modest gifts on Christmas Day. “Time is short,” he wrote. “If you would like to make a miracle, won’t you hurry?”

The miracles totaled $1,801 that year, and they have grown through the decades. Last year, Christmas Happiness collected some $59,000. Vouchers went out to 1,079 families with 2,669 children, according to the Department of Social Services. Some years the fund has raised well over $70,000.

Murphy died in 1960, and since then the world has changed in countless ways. But Christmas Happiness lives on, and this year the need it addresses is as great as ever. Though the economic recession has lifted, many Rowan families have been left behind with poverty they have never known before.

This year, for the first time, Christmas Happiness donations will go to the Salvation Army. Demands on Social Services’ staff and resources have grown too great. But the funds will be distributed in the same way as usual, in the form of vouchers for families that qualify for help — $25 per child.

We thank the Salvation Army for helping us carry on this tradition of caring and sharing. And we thank the countless people who have contributed to Christmas Happiness through the years. It’s as much your tradition as ours.

As Murphy said, time is short. Christmas day is but a month away, and some 1,000 families have applied for help. We ask you to help us meet that need. Won’t you hurry?

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