The Queen Anne Helpline rang out the old year and welcomed in the new with a bang, thanks to the generosity of volunteers and charitable neighbors.
A week before Christmas, Santa came to the Masonic Temple to hand out toys to 70-some Queen Anne families in need. The toys were gathered by the Helpline by way of donations from numerous local businesses such as Five Corners Hardware, A&J Meats, Queen Anne Office Supply, the Socius Law Group, schools like Country Day and Matheia and various churches and families on the Hill. Volunteers wrapped the presents, and new Christmas stockings for the children were sewn by hand by Marie-France Minton, Pat Sobeck and Judy Searles .
When the families entered the Temple, they were greeted by volunteers who offered refreshments and the opportunity to pick out hats, mittens, booties and scarves hand-knitted by the Senior Volunteers at the Fremont Association. Then the children had their pictures taken on Santa's lap and told him what they hoped to be receiving.
Dante Williams, 3, was on the lookout for a yellow ducky that quacked. Kenneth McNeal, 6, was hoping for some Spider-Man toys. Sierra Gates, 8, wanted a Bratz doll. After telling Santa their desires, each family received a giant, sealed Hefty bag full of the requested toys - one for each child in the family. Some adults also received special certificates for food and other services.
Karen, a single mom, held her children close as she spoke of leaving a domestic-violence situation and finding herself in need of assistance. She said she's known about the Helpline for a long time, but this was the first time she's had to use their services.
"I used to be on the giving end of the Helpline," she said. "I would shop at Nordstrom's. Now I'm on the receiving end, and I don't know what we would have done without them."
Another recipient, a former Queen Anne Thriftway employee who now works on boats as a seasonal employee, said it's particularly tough during the holidays.
"This is extremely helpful," she said looking down at the bag of toys for her daughter Stephanie. "It's just very tough for us to make ends meet."
Stephanie, 3, was hoping to get a Chouchou doll that wiggles and talks. As she left, she anxiously tried to sneak a peek into her bag, but her mother quickly sealed it back up, telling her she needed to wait till Christmas Day.
Some other children received gifts of a different type - the gift of giving. Waylon Robert, 8, who lives in Ballard, donated a new Mega Blocks gift to be given to a boy who requested one.
Claire Godbout, 9, and her sister Nicole, 7, made and sold Christmas ornaments. They took all the proceeds plus their allowances to the Helpline. The Helpline used the money to help a client get a Washington state ID, and another to receive a monthly sticker for a disabled bus pass.
Tree Lot volunteers and patrons were also in the spirit of giving as the Tree Lot raised more than $30,000 for the Helpline. Safeway generously donated the space for the lot, and Mr. Sellen the use of the trailer. Boy Scout Troop 72 provided the muscle hauling and sawing the trees - more than 1,850 sold.
Additional funds came at the end of the year from Queen Anne merchants who set up gift boxes for the Helpline when they held their Holiday Open House. They collected close to $700.
In 2004 the Helpline saw more Queen Anne residents than ever who needed assistance. Thanks to the strong generosity of neighbors, businesses and community, it met those needs. In 2005 it will continue its mission to foster the relationship of "neighbors helping neighbors."