Sara Lopez and Jared Warren load up presents for delivery to a family of 6 that were nominated by Kids Unlimited for the Light One Candle series. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch

Generous community responds to Light One Candle series

Two mischievous red-haired toddlers soon will know their grandmother's embrace.

"They're terrors — I can't wait," said Lisa Mahoney, 48.

Airline tickets to Spokane, Wash., are reserved in January for Mahoney, a former registered nurse who lives in a Medford homeless shelter and has never met her 18-month-old twin grandchildren, Blakely and Carson.

Awaiting a liver transplant, Mahoney likely can travel more than once to Spokane to visit her daughter and the twins on the airline miles, tickets and funds donated by readers of the Mail Tribune's Light One Candle series.

"The donations were phenomenal," said Kathy Morgan, president of St. Vincent de Paul's Medford shelter, where Mahoney and her husband have lived since September. Soon after leaving Texas for Oregon, Mahoney was diagnosed with end-stage liver failure.

"The clock's ticking," she said, tears springing to her eyes. "The reality of getting to go and see my kids ... "

The couple said they already liked Medford, but the community's response to their story only confirms this was the right town when they stepped off the Greyhound bus.

"We feel like it was a blessing," said Mahoney. "We were at the right place at the right time."

Readers bestowed holiday blessings on 10 other families and several individuals profiled for Light One Candle. Donations were so abundant in some cases that social-service organizations advocating for the nominees spread the surplus among other clients.

"Really, what happens is stuff keeps pouring in," said Shey Yearsley, community development officer for Kids Unlimited. "We're able to stretch it."

At least 10 sets of Legos arrived at Kids Unlimited, which nominated a 7-year-old student and his family who fled this year from domestic violence to a Medford hotel. After the boy, his mother and 4- and 5-year-old brothers received toys, clothing and household items, gifts were left over for about 40 other Kids Unlimited families, said Yearsley.

A single Ashland mother also "shared the wealth" of gas cards and gift cards with fellow clients of the Children's Advocacy Center. Fifteen readers responded to the story of her 5- and 6-year-old sons, who were victims of sexual assault and dreamed of owning a bunk bed. They not only had a new bunk bed and new bedding for Christmas, but toys, a Christmas tree and family membership to ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum. Donors also designated a gift card for the 28-year-old mother, whose birthday is on Christmas.

"Moms usually are left out," said Sonja Herbold, who accepted gifts for a 19-year-old, single mother on behalf of Healthy Families.

One Healthy Families donor specified that the teen mother spend $100 on household items, $50 on her 2-year-old son and $50 on herself. In addition to $600 in cash and gift cards, the young woman, who works part-time and takes classes at Rogue Community College, received a "gently used laptop in great condition" to help with her schooling, said Herbold.

Repairs for another struggling mother's laptop computer are in store. But she's more relieved at the prospect of a safer living environment for her three special-needs children. A donation of $5,000 to Medford's Family Nurturing Center for the children's care "will do a number of things," including purchase gas for the family's frequent trips to Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, said Executive Director Mary-Curtis Gramley.

"The community overwhelmed us."

The sentiment was echoed by other organizations who nominated clients.

"It is amazing to experience the overwhelming joy and charitable spirit displayed by members of our community," said Allison Redding, office manager for CASA of Jackson County.

A family of four represented by CASA through child-welfare proceedings has furniture, bedding, cookware, books, craft supplies, learning tools and toys. Teens aging out of the foster-care system with help from Community Works' Independent Living Program received everything they hoped for — art supplies, clothing, music players, even digital cameras — and more, said case manager Matthew Brody.

Also represented by Community Works, a Central Point family of five who escaped domestic violence received furniture, kitchen items, bedding and household goods for their new home, in addition to gift cards, bus passes and cash donations. Another family of five working with Maslow Project has new dishes, pots, pans and children's playthings.

A homeless family of seven has clothing, toys and other gifts, including furniture for an entire home once they get settled with help from ACCESS. A last-minute, cash donation of $1,000 will help purchase all the little things families need when moving into a house, said Vicki D'Alessandro, rental programs coordinator for ACCESS.

And a family of six, whose minivan was on its last legs, has hope for a new vehicle in the new year courtesy of Ed's Tire Factory and Used Car Factory, said Yearsley. In the meantime, donations to Kids Unlimited ensure the family has warm clothing, shoes and other gifts.

The gift of mobility also will benefit a developmentally disabled stroke survivor who likes to traverse his neighborhood in a golf cart. New batteries, wheels, tires and upholstery are slated for the aging vehicle with $500 in contributions to Living Opportunities, which represents the 57-year-old man, said development associate Rachel Rawlins.

Another Living Opportunities client who communicates with laminated picture cues soon can broaden his interactions with an iPad, applications and shock-proof case courtesy of more than $1,000 in donations, said Rawlins. A fraction of the funds will buy the 23-year-old man a truckload of dirt to build tracks around his backyard for model cars.

An Ashland couple with custody of their 6-year-old grandson, who has Down syndrome, can pay for respite care with cash donations to the Arc of Jackson County. Gift certificates also were sent in so the woman and man, who has terminal cancer, can unwind with a massage.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or

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