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Archive for Thursday, December 23, 2004

$15,000 donation to make holiday happier for dozens

December 23, 2004

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With 42 needy families still on her shopping list but only about 10 days left until Christmas, Linda Lassen was worried.

The families had applied through Penn House, the nonprofit aid agency that Lassen runs, to each receive a holiday dinner and gifts. But Penn House was running out of goodies to share.

Then a Lawrence company stepped up and spent more than $15,000 to buy dinners and gifts or gift cards for all 42 families.

"It was shocking," said Lassen, director of Penn House, 1035 Pa. "It was like a miracle. I couldn't believe it."

Bruce Belcher, vice president of Huxtable & Associates, 815 E. 12th St., said he'd heard Penn House still had many families on its list.

He told one of his employees to call Lassen last week and tell her the company would adopt the remaining families, more than 135 people.

"If we were going to take one, we were going to take them all," Belcher said. "When you're doing well and to see so many folks that are doing without. ... The rest of us that are so fortunate need to pitch in."

The people who received the gifts from Huxtable & Associates were not available for comment because Penn House keeps donors' identities secret from recipients.

Huxtable & Associates receptionist Liz Lyon said Lassen was surprised when Lyon called her and said the company would adopt the families.

Penn House volunteers, from left, Donnie Ray and Ron Deavers, load
up one of several boxes of Christmas gifts for needy families. The
Lawrence company Huxtable & Associates donated more than
$15,000 last week to Penn House for holiday dinners and gifts for
42 families.

Penn House volunteers, from left, Donnie Ray and Ron Deavers, load up one of several boxes of Christmas gifts for needy families. The Lawrence company Huxtable & Associates donated more than $15,000 last week to Penn House for holiday dinners and gifts for 42 families.

"She called me back three times to make sure," Lyon said. "It just thrills me to death that everybody's going to have something. I can't imagine what it would be like to wake up and have nothing on Christmas Day."

About 20 employees went shopping Friday, spending more than $15,000 on Christmas dinners and gifts or gift cards. Most of the money came from company funds, with employees and company suppliers also chipping in.

The employees brought the gift cards to Penn House on Friday and the gifts Monday and Tuesday.

Belcher said his employees were excited to help the families. Huxtable & Associates repairs and installs heating and air-conditioning systems, electrical systems and plumbing systems in buildings.





More than 200 families, including those adopted by Huxtable & Associates, received gifts and dinners or gift cards this year through Penn House's Christmas adoption program.

Lassen said she couldn't remember whether one group had ever adopted 42 or more families before. Huxtable & Associates also had used company funds and employee donations to adopt a mother and her four teens earlier in the season.

Penn House asks donors to buy an outfit of clothes for each person in their adopted household and something off each child and parents' wants lists. It also asks donors to buy a Christmas dinner for the family.

Penn House's Christmas adoption program has been going for more than 13 years. Every family has always been adopted, Lassen said. Families must meet income guidelines to qualify for the list. Penn House includes single people living alone in its definition of a family for the list.

Lassen said she was thankful the company adopted so many people.

"If it hadn't been for them, we might still be here trying to get families adopted," she said.

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