Julieann doesn't know whether she should laugh or cry. There comes a point, she said, when life is so ridiculous that you almost need to acknowledge the fact with a laugh.

Her car broke down and there's no timely bus service between the day-care center where she leaves her young nieces, who live with her, and the factory where she works. She can't get the car fixed, because transmissions are expensive.She's been out with the flu, the cupboards are bare, her roof has a hole in it and she's "losing it."

"I'm the kind of person," she said, "who tries to keep it together. I love my kids. And I know that times are hard. We've had some tight times before and we always seem to hang on. But this year I just can't seem to win."

Paul lost his job with a roofing company last month during a "work-force reduction." He'd worked there for two years.

His wife, Laurie, has been staying at home with their three children, ages 5-12. If she had been working, Paul said, they'd have had to pay for day care. Now she's looking for a job.

"I'm really kind of hating this," he said. "We've always been able to provide. And the kids are expecting Santa Claus. I'm not sure what's going to happen."

Julieann and Paul head two of the 528 families that have applied for help in providing Christmas to their children through the Deseret News Santa's Helping Hand program. Those families have more than 1,500 children. Families are screened by an independent agency to make sure they meet eligibility guidelines, including income limits.

Two weeks before Christmas, there are still 325 families that haven't been "adopted" for the holidays. Each family has at least two children. The average number of children is three. More families have requested help this year than last year.

Families, individuals, clubs, church groups, friends - anyone can lend a hand. People who want to play Santa can call the Deseret News, 237-2138 or 237-2139.

The Deseret News will provide information about the family, including a telephone number, address and the names and ages of the children. Sponsors call the family directly to let them know they've been adopted for Christmas.

The Christmas provided should be adequate and nice, but not extravagant, since that can set up unrealistic expectations. In addition to toys and some clothing, families may request a Christmas tree and some food for a Christmas dinner. That can be ironed out during the phone call.

"I wish I knew if someone had adopted my kids for Christmas," Julieann said. "I worry. I don't want to have to hug them and tell them there's nothing for them; Santa had to skip 'em this year."


How to help

To provide Christmas for a needy family, call 237-2138 or 237-2139.