They say it's better to give than receive. They just might be on to something, as many of you readers know firsthand. For the ninth consecutive year, the Tampa Bay Times has told about people with extraordinary stories and great needs in our Holiday Hopes series. • Here's how readers responded.
Readers came through for Rico Davis, providing a traditional Christmas dinner from HoneyBaked Ham of Brandon and presents for Ervin Washington III, who is 13, and his sister Angel Washington, 7. The presents were valued at about $500 said Vicki Sokolik, director at Starting Right, Now. Cash donations totaled $900 and will buy food for the children and their grandmother, who Davis says has little resources.
Davis and his siblings lost both parents in one night when their mother shot her husband. He died and she was taken to jail, where she remains. Davis is doing well attending Hillsborough Community College. He chose to use his wish for his brother and sister, who went into foster care and now they live with their grandmother.
Davis sends this message:
"Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I really appreciate everything you did for me this Christmas. It's really a blessing to have this opportunity to help my siblings. It showed me that people really are helpful and again, thank you. Much Love."
Fereshta Abdul Khalid
Two readers sent checks to Khalid, totaling $250. She is saving the money to use for school, she said. She also picked up extra hours over the holidays at her job at CVS, including one week when she worked 67 hours.
"I am super thankful for anything," said Khalid, who lost her father when she was 12 days old. "Every little bit helps."
Her father was kidnapped by the Taliban and she eventually came to Tampa when she was 7 with her mother and siblings as refugees. She completed high school in two years and is now working toward a medical career as a University of South Florida sophomore.
The Vazquez family
Readers donated more than $1,200 to Amanda and Andrew Vazquez, who had been struggling with bills and an older car needing repairs. They also received toys and clothes for their children, Chanel, 6 and Isai, 2. Amanda has lupus and had a difficult pregnancy with Sophia, born in November. The couple said they wanted to say a big thank-you to those who helped.
As of this week, reader donations were not yet confirmed. Monthervil completed multiple missions in Afghanistan with his infantry unit and had only three days left when he tripped on a ramp on July 28. He couldn't move and soon learned that he had fractured a vertebra.
He is expecting to be discharged from James A. Haley VA Medical Center soon and needs a van equipped for him to drive and a wheelchair-accessible apartment.