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The Denver Post - - NEWS -

adults, giv­ing them all hol­i­day gifts that have been do­nated by the com­mu­nity. Even then, Bergel said, it’s not enough.

“It’s our phi­los­o­phy to not say no,” he said, “so this sea­son is es­pe­cially dif­fi­cult be­cause there is so much de­mand. And we can’t say yes to ev­ery­one.”

At Corner­stones, a North­ern Vir­ginia non­profit that pro­vides shelter and sup­port to fam­i­lies in need, the staff ful­filled 1,300 wish lists for chil­dren in the Re­ston and Hern­don ar­eas alone. North­ern Vir­ginia Fam­ily Ser­vices, a non­profit agency based in Oak­ton, will give about 2,100 chil­dren gifts through a dona- tion pro­gram.

Na­tion­ally, more than one in three chil­dren are growing up in low-in­come work­ing fam­i­lies, ac­cord­ing to data from the Work­ing Poor Fam­i­lies Project. In the Wash­ing­ton re­gion, which has some of the high­est-in­come coun­ties in the na­tion, more than one in four chil­dren fall into that cat­e­gory.

Bergel said the needs dif­fer from one fam­ily to the next, but there seems to be a shared theme to all the re­quests: “There are a lot of moms look­ing to pro­vide some joy this hol­i­day sea­son.”

The same could be said of the Craigslist listings.

“I am a sin­gle mom of three,” be­gins one in Fairfax, Va.

“I am a stay at home mom of 4 chil­dren,” starts an­other from Mont­gomery Vil­lage in sub­ur­ban Mary­land.

“They say trou­ble don’t last al­ways,” wrote Juanita Her­rin, 34, of An­nan­dale, Va. “I am a di­vorced mother of 4 bat­tling lu­pus.”

Her­rin said she turned to the site in des­per­a­tion af­ter get­ting turned down for help from sev­eral non­profit agen­cies. She re­cently started a clean­ing ser­vice. But she said it’s a strug­gle to pay bills and keep up the in­sur­ance for her busi­ness and still pro­vide a spe­cial day for her chil­dren, ages 6, 11, 13 and 15.

“I don’t want any money from any­one,” Her­rin said. “I just want my kids to open up some­thing on Christmas Day.”

Brit­ten’s chil­dren were still asleep when she woke up at 4 a.m. and posted her ad on Craigslist. “I had noth­ing to lose,” she said. “It’s been hell this year. Ev­ery­thing just started crash­ing un­der us at one time.”

Brit­ten said she went back to cos­me­tol­ogy school this year be­cause her fi­ance, Don­nell Booker, was earn­ing enough at his con­struc­tion job to han­dle their $1,450 monthly rent in Oxon Hill, Md. But then his hours were re­duced and the bills piled up. A look at one of his re­cent pay­checks shows that he earns $17 an hour, and on a week when his gross pay to­taled $204, af­ter de­duc­tions for taxes and child sup­port, his check was for $21.

Brit­ten said this has meant the fam­ily has been late on rent and now faces an evic­tion that could come any day. In the months lead­ing up to Thanks­giv­ing, their water and gas were turned off. To cook, they used an elec­tric skil­let, and for water, they ran a hose across the street from a gen­er­ous neigh­bor’s house.

“Once one domino fell, they all started fall­ing,” Brit­ten said. “Christmas is just break­ing my heart. A lot of peo­ple say it is not about the gifts. I know that. I know that as an adult. But as a kid, you don’t want to process that.”

Her 15-year-old son wants new clothes the fam­ily can’t af­ford. Her 13- and 11-yearold have asked for a PlayS­ta­tion video-game con­sole that is out of her bud­get. Her 8-year-old son hasn’t re­quested any­thing spe­cific, but as he sat in the fam­ily’s liv­ing room on a re­cent af­ter­noon, he ex­cit­edly re­called what was wait­ing for him un­der the tree last year.

“I got books and a bub­ble gum ma­chine and a puz­zle,” Don­nell Booker Jr. said.

Then, just as quickly as the sec­ond-grader started talk­ing about gifts, he stopped. He knows his fam­ily is strug­gling this year. In the cor­ner of the room, a tree his mother bought for $5 at the Fam­ily Dol­lar store leaned against a wall on a bro­ken stand.

“It’s mainly for get­ting to­gether with your fam­ily,” Don­nell said of the hol­i­day.

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