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Holiday Wishes

Published Dec. 22, 1997|Updated Oct. 2, 2005

Pat yourself on the back, Citrus County.

Because of you, Michael will go to Sea World with his mom, Aleta's son will have hearing aids, and Jack can repair his aunt's car and work around the house because of the tools donated to him.

Also, Donna's 2-year-old developmentally disabled son will have all the bright and noisy toys that will stimulate his reactions.

And a Santa came through with a job for Ginny that was a real holiday surprise and will let her spend more time with her two daughters.

Amanda has moved out of her travel trailer and into a small house with her daughter, Sonya, who will finally have that pretty pink bedroom she has dreamed about for so long, thanks to some kind folks.

These were just a few of the needy families that sought holiday help through the Family Resource Center headed by Ginger West and her army of volunteers. These stories were highlighted in the Times, and Citrus County residents came through.

As of Friday, 1,253 children had been sponsored. Although not all the gifts had come in yet, West wasn't worried.

"I'm not panicked. I think it's going to be fine, as long as people who have obligated themselves to bring in gifts do so," she said.

"Some people just procrastinate until the last minute, but they always come through."

Florida Power came through for 90 children this year. Organized by employees Claire Lamb and Sarah Schwartz, the company sent a convoy Friday of three trucks and two station wagons full of toys.

Florida Power spokesman Ed Vilade said, "Florida Power Corp. usually sponsors families each year, but this year employees were busy with the restart of the nuclear plant and put off the toy collecting until about three weeks ago.

"They just started within the past three weeks," he said. "The response was terrific, and what we wound up doing was talking to Ginger West and saying, "We'll take all of the kids you have left.'

"(Friday) we just told (the Family Resource Center) to get ready because it's all coming," Vilade said.

Because cases are always brought in at the last minute by anxious caseworkers, there are still needs. West expects that the center will have served at least 1,300 children by Tuesday.

"We get so busy with our lives," West said. "And when you are not involved on a day-to-day basis with crisis, you sometimes forget that there are thousands of children in our county living in poverty.

"We have a lot of homeless people in this community. You just don't see them like you do in the city. They're living in the woods and in their cars."

Donations are still being accepted at the center's holiday shop in the old Scotty's hardware store in Citrus Center on State Road 44 in Inverness.

Perhaps the biggest tribute to the people of the county is the validity of West's standard holiday quote: "Citrus County came through again!"

_ Times staff writer Amylia Wimmer contributed to this story.

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