When Mike Anderson was offered a high-paying job with a Salt Lake company, he rented a trailer, hitched it to his 1975 Mercury sedan and moved his family from Oregon.
Anderson, his wife and two daughters enjoyed their home in Midvale and the various neighborhood activities, especially backyard barbecues during the summer. The job was all he had expected - until September, when the company filed for bankruptcy.The family dream was shattered and Anderson searched for another job. The family qualified for some welfare income, but it all went for rent, utilities and food. And with Christmas approaching, life looked pretty bleak.
The Andersons were among the hundreds of families who found themselves in a situation beyond their control. With Christmas a few weeks away, the parents would not have enough money to provide toys or clothes for their two daughters, aged 10 and 12.
The parents were not concerned for themselves, but they were disheartened to think that their two daughters would wake up Christmas morning to discover that Santa Claus had overlooked them.
But thanks to hundreds of Salt Lake area families, companies and civic groups, Santa will find his way to the Anderson home and hundreds of others who applied through the Deseret News Santa's Helping Hand program.
The Andersons (not their real name) were typical of those who turned to the program when they discovered supplemental security benefits, aid to families with dependent children and food stamps didn't stretch their meager income to include the extras for Christmas.
Between Nov. 14 and Dec. 9, applicants filed requests at the community operations office of the Utah State Department of Social Services, 2835 S. Main. Applications were verified for eligibility, taking into consideration their income and expenses.
To coordinate applications from various charitable organizations, names were added to a computerized master list. Occasionally, a name would appear two, three or four times to indicate that an application had been made at more than one organization. To avoid duplication in contributions, only one agency was assigned to the family, thereby using the donor pool to better advantage.
Names accepted for the Deseret News Santa's Helping Hand program were added to the large pile of "client" (recipient) requests.> Readers accepted the challenge to help, but not as quickly as in past years, according to Angie Twitchell, Deseret News program coordinator. Many of the donors finished their personal shopping and then discovered they had extra money and time to help the needy, Twitchell said.
Last Friday, nearly 200 children were still waiting for help and a plea was made once again for donors. As readers learned that help still was needed, the phones began to ring throughout Saturday as donors were matched with needy families.
By Monday morning, only 12 families remained to be helped - and by noon they had been placed, Twitchell said.
This year's number of families helped through the program set a rec-ord, according to Evelyn Russell, community operations officer. On Christmas morning, 3,737 boys and girls in 994 families will receive gifts.
And as in the past, many of the families will turn to the Deseret News Santa's Helping Hand program again next year - not as recipients but as donors who have learned what it means to need help at Christmas.