Christmas for the Moore family of Stowe focuses on the simple joys of the season. Togetherness trumps the extravagance that forms the holiday for some.
Out of necessity, there won't be shopping trips for elaborate Christmas decorations. Dionne Moore, mother of three with a creative hand, will dress the tree with paper ornaments and strings of popcorn or cereal rather than glitzy store-bought garland.
That is, if there is a tree. As of last week, she wasn't sure if that would be in the budget and was ready, if necessary, to create a "tree" from paper to place on the front door of the family home in the Pleasant Ridge public housing community.
"Family is your present," Ms. Moore said.
The family -- William "Mr. Ty" Moore, 54; Ms. Moore, 43, and children William, 14; Dion, 8; and Jadlynn, 2 -- have struggled mightily since September 2010, when Mr. Moore was laid off as a maintenance worker in the community.
The couple found out on the day of Ms. Moore's birthday and the couple's anniversary. "It was a really down birthday and anniversary," she said.
With four rotator cuff surgeries and other health problems, Mr. Moore has been unable to find work. Ms. Moore said she has been disabled since 2005 with fibromyalgia, bulging disks in her back, bone spurs in her feet and carpal tunnel syndrome, for which she had surgery in August.
Before that, she taught parenting classes at Butterfly Garden Early Learning Center in McKees Rocks and filled in at various day care centers.
The Moores contribute where they can: She is such a presence among the children in the neighborhood that she is known to all as "Mom." Other residents still bring their maintenance issues to "Mr. Ty," who does his best to take care of them even though he's no longer paid for it.
"We're a typical American family, with health issues," Ms. Moore said.
Still, the holidays will be a happy and rambunctious time in the house. The parents will stay up late on Christmas Eve preparing and will barely get to sleep in time for the predawn awakening of the children.
The Moores, for whom even bare necessities like rent and food are a mighty challenge, will receive a boost this year from the Marine Corps' Toys for Tots program and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Goodfellows Fund.
Contributions from Post-Gazette readers provide toys for children who might otherwise do without on Christmas. The program distributes toys through more than 150 social services agencies and at two public open houses in December, serving thousands of children whose parents are struggling with unemployment, health problems and other hardships.
Charles T. Brown of the Allegheny County Housing Authority oversees the toy distribution for Pleasant Ridge.
"They normally have the kids go down and pick out gifts," Ms. Moore said. "They're great gifts; they're wonderful. They're the gifts I wish I had the money to buy."
The Post-Gazette's Goodfellows Fund was started in 1947 with the simple goal that no child awaken on Christmas morning without gifts under the tree. Donations support Toys for Tots and the Salvation Army's Treasures for Children program.
You can make a tax-deductible contribution using the mail-in coupon that appears with this story or online at www.post-gazette.com/goodfellows.
Every donation will be acknowledged in the pages of the Post-Gazette.
The Toys for Tots program will hold open houses next month to distribute toys to parents and guardians of needy children.
They will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 14 and 15 at Guardian Storage Solutions, 2839 Liberty Ave., Strip District. Parents and guardians should bring a photo ID for themselves, a birth certificate for each child (children up to age 12 are eligible) and proof of need -- welfare check stub, food stamp card or other proof of government assistance.region
Jon Schmitz: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1868.