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Published: Saturday, 12/24/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Little Flower's giveaway brings joy to 130 families

Parish group helps year-round

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
Ean Allgire, 8, of Toledo tries to hold as many stuffed animals as he can while volunteer Sandy Moore joins in the fun at the Christmas giveaway at Little Flower Catholic Church.
Ean Allgire, 8, of Toledo tries to hold as many stuffed animals as he can while volunteer Sandy Moore joins in the fun at the Christmas giveaway at Little Flower Catholic Church.
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Leaning on a pair of crutches, Shelly McCullough waited patiently in line outside Little Flower Catholic Church's O'Grady Center.

Partially paralyzed since she was 6 months old after a reaction to an immunization, the 29-year-old Toledoan said she relies on Social Security and disability payments to make ends meet.

Thursday's giveaway at Little Flower saved her family's holiday, she said.

"I've got three kids -- 8, 5, and 4 -- and without stuff like this, they wouldn't have a Christmas," Ms. McCullough said.

Her friend Pamela McGuff, 30, expressed the same thought: She works part time and earns "barely enough to get by."

"I've got a little boy, he's 7, and this means everything to him," Ms. McGuff said.

The Christmas giveaway, organized by Little Flower's St. Vincent de Paul Society, provided 130 preregistered families with boxes of food, a ham, a gallon of milk, two gift-wrapped presents per child, and a chance to pick out clothes, toys, stuffed animals, games, shoes, and household items.

Bob Kertesz, 73, president of the parish society, said the 30 members in the group began preparing for Christmas a month ago, aided by the Sisters of St. Francis in Sylvania, Boy Scout Troop 222, local food banks, and area businesses.

"I love it," volunteer Joan Hoag, 72, said of the giveaway. "We're just here to help. You come and join because you want to help people, but you get much more out of it than you can ever give. When you're home on Christmas morning, you think about the 130 other families enjoying the day because we were able to help."

About 40 volunteers spent five hours the day before packing the food boxes, placing a dozen eggs, a loaf of bread, boxes of pastries, low-fat cherry cheesecake yogurt parfait, stuffing, butter, a pie crust, au gratin potatoes, and much more in each.

Dianne Brandt, vice president of the parish society, said the group helps people year-round, not just during the holidays.

"We help 10 to 12 families a week with prescriptions, transportation, rentals, emergency help," she said.

Shelly McCullough, a 29-year-old mother of three from Toledo who was disabled when she was 6 months old, chooses a pair of boots. She said she relies on Social Security and disability payments. Shelly McCullough, a 29-year-old mother of three from Toledo who was disabled when she was 6 months old, chooses a pair of boots. She said she relies on Social Security and disability payments.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Kyla Bowles, 10, smiled brightly as she hugged a large stuffed tiger she had just picked out. Her mother, Kathy Bowles, 39, was glad for Little Flower's program. "They have a food pantry also and we get to go once a month. We're real grateful for that, and for them helping with our Christmas, too. This is wonderful. It's a blessing," she said.

Wilhelmina "Willy" Vandersteen, 68, said the society has a "limited" amount of funds to help people facing eviction or utility shut-offs.

The parish, near the Reynolds Corners neighborhood in southwest Toledo, has more than 1,300 families and takes up collections for the St. Vincent de Paul Society on the first Sunday of each month, usually bringing in between $2,100 and $2,500 each time, Ms. Brandt said.

Among those who came to the O'Grady Center was Mary Gibson, 59, of Toledo, leaving with food and toys for her 18 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.

"It's been a rough year, but God is smiling," Ms. Gibson said. "I really thank the people of Toledo, Ohio, for helping out."

Bob Rosowski, 55, has been active in the parish's St. Vincent de Paul Society since moving to Sylvania from Los Angeles six months ago.

"Little Flower is amazing," he said. "It's not a big parish, it's not a wealthy parish, but there are all sorts of missions. It's very outreach-oriented. We serve 70,000 to 80,000 individual meals a year. The people in Toledo are really nice, and I think the people at Little Flower are the nicest in Toledo."

The Christmas giveaway is about more than providing material goods, Mr. Rosowski said.

"It's about faith and love, but really it's about dignity," he said. "People are supposed to live in dignity. These are our brothers and sisters."

Contact David Yonke at: dyonke@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.



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