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Readers' care extends to family

Second of a four-part series

So I was going to wait until the Holiday Hopes series was through to give readers a round-up of wishes granted for the people in need that photographer Chris Zuppa and I profiled. But I can't wait. You readers rock.

Just last week, Wanda Filson's three grandchildren thought they wouldn't have a Christmas this year. Their grandmother was having a hard enough time paying weekly rent at the Lamplighter Motel after illness and evictions left them almost homeless.

Then, you got involved.

Your phone calls flooded Kathy Wiggins and Kellie Baroni's office at the school district's Homeless Education and Literacy Project, and they worked into the following week to make your donations come together into a new life for Filson's family.

"It has been an outpouring," Wiggins said.

As of Wednesday morning, Wiggins had collected $3,000 in cash, and had spoken to someone who offered a vacant home in Brooksville, an apartment complex owner who extended an invitation and two people who each offered to pay six months of Filson's rent.

And that's a good thing, too. Because after motel owner Anil Patel read the story, he told Filson they had to leave. He didn't want to get in trouble with the county for having so many people in one room, and he said they wasted too much water.

I'm not sure how much water you waste when you're washing plastic dishes in a sink, but at least Patel was kind enough to give them two weeks to find another place to live.

As Baroni and Wiggins worked to put your donations together, you knocked on Filson's door with gifts of clothes, toys, groceries - and hope.

Thanks to your $400 WalMart gift certificate, Isaiah's grandmother got him a telescope for his 10th birthday last Sunday. Janell, 12, will finally be able to eat at Red Lobster. And Mariah, 9, will paint with the new art set you got her.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you," Filson wants you to know. "I can't believe this. So many wonderful people in this world are willing to help somebody they don't even know. My kids are very appreciative. My family is appreciative. It's just awesome. It's unbelievable."

Yep. It is.

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at 226-3354 or azayas@sptimes.com.

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