Goodfellows: With more children, holiday paycheck gets thin

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Marsha Thomas tries to do what she can.

But the grandmother of 14, great-grandmother of one, and great-aunt to another four great-nieces and great-nephews gets stretched thin trying to provide a bit of Christmas spirit to all of them.

So, to help with just her four youngest grandchildren and four great-nieces and great-nephews this year has meant asking for help from a trusted source.

Toys for Tots "has helped us a lot, definitely, especially during that time we weren't doing so well financially," she said.

That was back in 2005, when she first found out about the program from the Rev. Tammy Smith at her church "when things were harder then," said Mrs. Thomas, 61, of Wilkinsburg, who works in customer service for the IRS Downtown.

While Mrs. Thomas and her husband, William, 64, a records clerk at UPMC Presbyterian, are doing OK, they're reaching out to help the children of an adult son from a prior marriage, who is disabled because of a medical condition, and an adult niece, who is without a job. Both have children who would otherwise go without much at Christmas without Toys for Tots.

Her son and niece "have both had a tough time," Mrs. Thomas said. "But we want to help their kids."

Rev. Smith, a community activist who refers families to the Toys for Tots program from several area churches and the United Way, said the request from a grandparent or a great-aunt is increasingly common.

"Sometimes, a lot of parents, either through pride or embarrassment, won't reach out and the grandparents do it for them," Rev. Smith said.

Unfortunately, she said, "what I'm finding is that there are more grandparents trying to find help for their grandkids because their parents can't help."

Toys for Tots is organized locally by Pittsburgh Cares and the Marine Corps and funded by contributions to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Goodfellows Fund. Since 1947, the mission of Goodfellows has been to ensure that no child goes without a Christmas present.

The goal of the fund, which started in 1947, is to make sure that every child has a toy under the tree on Christmas morning. Your donations will support Toys for Tots in the distribution of thousands of toys to needy children this holiday season, and the Salvation Army's Treasures for Children program.

Please help. Make a tax-deductible donation to Goodfellows by using the coupon on this page, or online by visiting Every donation will be acknowledged in the newspaper.

It is not always easy to ask for help, Mrs. Thomas said, but that is easily overcome when she thinks about Christmas day.

"I just love to see the faces light up when they see the toys," she said. "It makes me feel blessed and thankful that those programs exist."

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Sean Hamill: or 412-263-2579. First Published December 18, 2012 5:30 AM


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