The holiday decorations have long since been packed away, but there was one more gift that had yet to be delivered.
After reading The Times' story Dec. 26 of Christmas at the Midnight Mission in downtown Los Angeles, a reader from Redondo Beach jotted off a note and a check for $100 made out to a woman who was featured along with her daughter in a photo.
According to the article by Rosanna Xia, Latoya Williams had waited long hours with her 7-month-old daughter, Madison, for the toy giveaway at the mission. But it was her daughter’s first Christmas, and once she saw the girl playing with new toys, Williams told Xia, "It’s worth it."
Williams had been laid off from her customer service job at a bank and was living with her daughter in transitional housing.
She added, "As soon as I can, I'm going to give back -- because my daughter has a Christmas, and I will one day make sure someone else will too."
The accompanying photo by Mark Boster of Williams tenderly handing a toy to her baby struck a chord with the Redondo Beach reader, who wrote, "It's trite, I know, but 'a picture is worth a thousand words' is so true here. It hit me because it's so poignant -- and she radiates intelligence, resoluteness, and she’s got it together.
"Please pass on the enclosed check to her with my wish that she'll do something nice for herself and Madison."
Xia was happy to help, but how to find Williams again? Williams had attended the Christmas event at the mission but didn't regularly use its services. She'd told Xia that she lived in transitional housing and gave her the neighborhood but not an address.
(That the letter even found its way to Xia is somewhat amazing. The envelope was addressed to "Editor of Human Interest Stuff," Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square.)
Xia got back in touch with the community relations manager at the mission, who offered to ask the staff to keep an eye out for Williams. Two weeks later, she excitedly emailed Xia that Williams had dropped by, and the staff had gotten her phone number.
We met Williams and Madison on Thursday and delivered the letter and the check from the reader. Madison just turned 9 months, has taken her first steps and has two bottom teeth. Though she'd just been to the doctor for an ear infection, she was all smiles and eager to get out of her stroller to toddle around.
Williams read the note and got tears in her eyes. "I’m not going to cry," she said, and talked about her day. She'd been down to $7 and had had to spend $5 on an all-day bus pass to get Madison to the doctor. The reader's check had come at just the right time. And she had recently enrolled in a county job assistance program that also would help her find daycare for Madison.
She felt confident that things were looking up.
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