Lelia Wiley has a new roof over her head.
Rob Wilson has food in his refrigerator and a new heater for his trailer.
Ashley and Albert Anderson will have toys to put under the tree for their children on Christmas morning.
And residents at Summerhill Senior Living Community in Perry received more than 9,000 Christmas cards from Telegraph readers.
Thank you, Reindeer Gang.
This year, The Telegraphs annual series profiled five individuals, one family and included residents of the Perry retirement community and Special Olympics athletes from Bibb County.
Readers came through with more than $10,000 in cash donations, as well as in-kind contributions of gift cards, food, clothes, furniture and car repairs.
Campus Clubs sponsored the family of Albert and Ashley Anderson and their three children, who live in Macon. The Anderson family needed help with food and other living expenses.
Robin Crosby, executive director of Campus Clubs, said an anonymous donor paid the $198 bill for the toys on layaway at Wal-Mart. A man from Washington, D.C., with ties to the area contributed money for gifts for the children. And $1,465 was donated toward paying off the funeral expenses of their 9-year-old son, Robbie Bridges, who had cerebral palsy and died in June.
Crosby said Albert, who has been out of work after an automobile accident, has been offered a temporary job with a local lawn maintenance company. Ashley, who is looking to change jobs, has been offered a scholarship to attend Health Tech of Georgia in Warner Robins.
This family has been overwhelmed by the support, Crosby said. I have been like a kid on Christmas Eve. I would run to the mailbox every day. This is what Christmas is all about.
Crosby said the impact has been far-reaching -- and not just for the Anderson family. The 115 children in Campus Clubs after-school program were encouraged to pay it forward. After being told about another Reindeer Gang story, they made Christmas cards to send to residents at Summerhill in Perry.
We all know we cant help everybody, but we can help somebody, Crosby said.
Brandy Briscoe, the director of activities at Summerhill, said a daily average of 435 Christmas cards had arrived in the mail since Dec. 3 and been distributed among the 190 residents. She said that figure does not take into account other cards that were hand delivered by families, schools and church groups.
It has meant the world to our residents, Briscoe said. Some of them dont have families. Most of the people who sent cards or came by to visit dont know any of our residents. They just did it.
Margery Zerko was featured in the article and received more than 2,600 birthday cards. Employees at the Wal-Mart in Perry gave her a birthday party this past Monday, her 97th birthday. About 60 people attended and were treated to ice cream and cake. Zerko also received a comforter, tiara and sash. All the other residents at Summerhill received cards and candy.
Penny Page, an assistant manager at Wal-Mart, said she and a friend, Dan Pippinger, read the Dec. 1 Reindeer Gang story about Zerko and the other residents at Summerhill.
At first I was just going to send her a card, but then I told my managers we needed to do something bigger, she said. It was very rewarding to be able to give back. Someone asked me to describe it, and I told them heartfelt.
Help for many
Rob Wilsons story also resonated with Telegraph readers. The Macon man, who sells newspapers every Sunday at the corner of Bass and Bowman roads, was wounded in Operation Desert Storm in 1993 and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
He lives in a trailer park near Middle Georgia State College and has transportation issues, along with a need for food and personal hygiene products.
Wilson said people have stopped by his newspaper tent the past two Sundays and made contributions of $900 in cash and $450 in Publix gift cards. Ken May, commander at the American Legion Post 3 on Thomaston Road, said about $700 has been collected at the post for Wilson, as well as donations of socks and other personal items.
This will be the best Christmas ever, Wilson said. I wish I could find the words to thank people.
Lelia Wiley needed a new roof and ceiling repairs to her aging home on Holt Avenue. The Fuller Center for Housing of Macon received $1,700 in donations from Reindeer Gang readers and another $500 from Wileys church, Greater Friendship Baptist.
The roof is now finished. The ceiling and electrical work began this past week. Director Dianne Fuller said a distributor, Gulf Eagle Supply, donated the shingles through L.E. Schwartz & Son roofing company in Macon. The remainder of the $3,000 in repairs was made possible though money raised on Georgia Gives Day on Nov. 13.
Its wonderful to live in a community that deeply cares, Fuller said. And its not only Macon, but the wider community. We had donations coming in from all over. I went by to see Mrs. Wiley last weekend after it had rained. She had a big smile on her face. There wasnt any rain coming through.
According to Tom Prior, director of the Houston County Habitat for Humanity, about $200 in Christmas money was contributed to Harriett Marlow, who works at the Wal-Mart in Warner Robins. Marlow works full time to support her two daughters and has transportation issues. The family lives in a Habitat home.
Candice Garrett, Natasha Graham, Monique Hughes and Timmeashia Parker, all victims of domestic violence, are residents of the Dove Center at the Macon Rescue Mission. They will be graduating from the six-month program in January and were in need of furniture and other household times.
Erin Reimers, executive director of the Rescue Mission, and Dawn Burns, director of the Dove Center, said $665 in donations were made to the women, as well as more than $500 in gift cards. Two local auto mechanics repaired the cars for two of the women. More than a dozen pieces of furniture were donated, including sofas, love seats, beds and kitchen tables.
The Reindeer Gang got behind the Bibb County Special Olympics to promote its annual Breakfast With Santa on Dec. 7, at Chilis restaurant at The Shoppes at River Crossing. The event was a fundraiser to cover transportation costs to state athletic competition for the more than 200 Special Olympians in Bibb County, ranging in age from 16 to their 70s.
John Saikas, a Special Olympics volunteer, said the breakfast raised $3,001 this year, which was more than double the proceeds from last year. He said the staff at Chilis donated and prepared the food, and Kohls donated $500 and provided five employees for three hours each as volunteers for the event.
We were very busy, and I saw a lot of smiles, Saikas said. This is the best Christmas present our program will have.
Reach Ed Grisamore at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org