Matthew Humphrey, 12, receives a new bike from Bruce Geig’s automotive class at South Medford High School Friday. South Medford students were among the many who responded to the Mail Tribune’s annual Light One Candle series. - Jamie Lusch

Generosity overwhelming

Seven tall pallets of goods donated by the community have left a father and son featured in the Mail Tribune's Light One Candle series grateful and overcome with emotion, said Karen Phillips of Southern Oregon Goodwill.

"They are pretty overwhelmed with the outpouring of support and generosity they have received from the community," Phillips said.

Donald Humphrey, 44, and his 12-year-old son, Matthew, are among nearly 20 families and individuals helped by readers who responded enthusiastically to the paper's annual holiday series, deluging local agencies with everything from basketball shoes to DVD players to clothing, gift cards and toys.

The Humphreys had few furnishings in their rented rooms after years of dealing with personal tragedy and serious illnesses. Donald Humphrey, who lost a 3-year-old daughter on Christmas Day 1993, suffers from asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and heart problems, yet works at Goodwill to support his son. He said his greatest wish was that Matthew "have a good Christmas."

The community gave him his wish — in spades.

The Humphreys received everything they had on their wish list and then some: housewares, clothing, a computer, an Xbox, microwave, TV, DVD/VCR player, furniture, gift cards — "you name it," Phillips said.

They also received several cash donations that have enabled them to buy groceries, catch up on their bills and even pay ahead on their utilities for the rest of the winter.

"They are feeling extremely touched and extremely grateful, and a bit overexposed," said Phillips.

The pair asked not to be interviewed again because the Dec. 2 story resulted in a level of public attention that was difficult to deal with, especially considering the conflicting emotions they feel this time of year.

"To give you an idea of the volume of donations we received, we were actually able to help an additional six families on our program who were also in desperate need this winter," said Phillips.

Some of the most moving donations came from kids, Phillips said. Two Jacksonville boys read that Matthew liked Yu-Gi-Oh cards and put a set together for him out of their own cards. Several families had kids who donated clothing, and a group of students from South Medford High School brought in a huge delivery of wrapped gifts and gift cards Friday as well as a new bike for Matthew.

The Humphreys will always remember this as a very special Christmas, Phillips said.

"They've even had people stopping by their home," Phillips said. "They got (offers for) six Christmas trees, three were fully decorated. They also had someone who offered to take them out so Matthew could cut his own tree."

Other Light One Candle candidates spurred yet more community generosity.

A family nominated by St. Vincent de Paul whose Christmas wish was granted when the father woke from a coma received almost $5,000 in donations to pay for his ongoing physical therapy, said Kathy Morgan, St. Vincent's community relations spokesperson.

Another father who suffered a debilitating stomach ailment and crushing medical bills also has been flooded with donations. The family of four received rent and gas money, a tricycle for their toddler and more, said Donna King of Healthy Start.

The most touching was a check for $10 that came from an elderly woman, said King.

"She said she has cancer and is in pain," King said. "But she wanted to give."

A severely hearing-impaired 19-year-old woman who suffered years of abuse in foster care is getting new hearing aids, thanks to local support.

A 15-year-old mom-to-be at Magdalene Home will have clothing for herself and her baby. She also was given a new car seat for her infant son. The honor student will receive home tutoring while she recovers from her delivery.

Pint-sized basketball players at Kids Unlimited have 20 new pairs of shoes. For some, it will be the first new shoes they have ever received, said Tom Cole, executive director.

Another Kids Unlimited nominee, a mother of five who is starting life over after an abusive marriage, has food, clothing and gift cards for toys for her children.

A 19-year-old with Cockeyne syndrome outlived her life expectancy with a fighting spirit. But the rare hereditary dwarfism syndrome mimics a brutal premature aging process. She is blind, deaf and mentally retarded and weighs only 18 pounds. Her mother asked for a few gift cards so she could buy her daughter some warm clothes and holiday gifts.

"We've gotten over $250 in gift cards," said the girl's nominator, Kevin Bell of Creative Support.

An autistic teen struggling to fit into a new group home was able to spend Christmas with his family thanks to the generosity of the community, said Jim Gauchenour, administrator at Living Opportunities.

"The community has been so wonderful," he said.

A young man who survived two bouts with meningitis but struggles with physical, mental and emotional challenges has received cash, clothing, Red Sox and Beavers sports items and help building a new shower, said Trish Pelzel of The Arc of Jackson County.

A sexually abused teen girl who turned her painful past into film projects received about $400 worth of gift certificates. Filmmakers in the valley also invited the girl to visit the set of their new projects.

"She was over the moon with these offers. So happy and so grateful," said Marlene Mish, director of the Child Advocacy Center.

Three families struggling to overcome abusive situations and nominated by Community Works had "an amazing Christmas," said Gerry Sea, program manager for Community Works' Dunn House outreach.

"They had no idea of the outpouring they would receive. They are all incredibly touched," Sea said.

The list goes on and on. All but one of the stories featured in the Light One Candle series received support from the community.

The story about the 27-year-old widowed autistic woman who needed help with rent and clothes did not receive any phone calls or letters, said Ronda Janisch of Rogue Retreat.

"We're disappointed. And we don't know why no one gave anything for her. There was nothing in the mail or calls on the phone," Janisch said.

It's never too late to give. If you can help this young woman with interim rent money or clothes or gift cards, contact Janisch at Rogue Retreat, 324-3425.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail

Share This Story