Suzanne Mead may not wear the traditional garb of a Santa's helper, but the Mount Airy woman has been working long hours to make sure a community of Missouri flood victims are remembered at Christmas.
With a computer, a telephone, and a box filled with 3-by-5-inch cards, Mrs. Mead is coordinating Mount Airy's "Adopt-a-Family" project. Area benefactors are being matched with families who lost their homes and possessions this summer to the raging Mississippi River flood waters.
The Mount Airy relief effort is helping residents of Alexandria, Mo., where many families literally have "nothing but the clothes on their backs," said Mrs. Mead.
She said she recently received the box of alphabetized file cards, which were organized by postal workers in Alexandria to identify households in need of help.
Benefactors are asked to provide one practical gift for each member of a family and one small gift, such as a coffee maker, for each household, said Mrs. Mead.
Warm clothing -- flannel shirts, sweat shirts or jeans -- are usually at the top of the flood victims' wish lists.
Patrons are asked not to purchase toys because of storage constraints and Christmas toy collection projects that are being sponsored by local schools.
Households that will receive the donations vary in size from individuals to families with up to six children, said Mrs. Mead. "There are plenty of single people," she said.
Mrs. Mead said $20 is suggested as the average cost of an individual's gift, with the cost of one household gift targeted at the same amount. The cost of "adopting" a family of four would be about $100.
"We're trying to have this come out reasonably fair," said Mrs. Mead.
Caring people from Brunswick to Hampstead have responded to the Adopt-a-Family project.
"We have 87 families taken care of out of 201," said Mrs. Mead. "We have 114 more to go."
She said a Mount Airy wife and mother of two young sons called her this week and was pleased to be matched with a family of four that is very similar to her own.
When I called this woman Tuesday, she agreed to talk about her participation, but asked me not to use her name because she wanted to give anonymously.
"I've gone shopping already," she said. "I look at this from a spiritual aspect. I've looked for somebody that we could help personally and secretly."
The benefactor was able to contact the Missouri mother she was helping by telephone. She said the Alexandria family was thankful to be living in a two-room place, even though it has no heat.
"She was telling me a lot of families are still in trucks and trailers," the local woman said. "There's mud everywhere."
A telephone call to Mrs. Mead is the first step in the "adoption" process, and you will get any available information about the family by return mail.
Each individual's gifts should be wrapped in Christmas paper and securely labeled. Each family's gifts should be put in a cardboard box identified with the family's name. A box of holiday cookies or a Christmas ornament would add a "special touch," Mrs. Mead said.
On Nov. 20 and 27, and Dec. 4, the gifts will be collected and stored at the old Mount Airy Fire Station. Tentative plans call for them to be taken to Missouri the week of Dec. 18.
"We still have the final arrangements to make with the tractor-trailer," said Mrs. Mead. "Lt. Gov. [Melvin] Steinberg's office called and said they had a commitment from Bowman Trucking Co."
Mrs. Mead said she hopes that volunteers will adopt the 201 families in Alexandria and that all the benefactors will honor their commitments. She also hopes "they have the decency to call" if they can't follow through, she said.
"Wouldn't it be nice if a lot of the people who adopt a family would keep this connection?" said Mrs. Mead. "This doesn't have to be a Christmas thing."
Information: Mrs. Mead, (301) 829-9229.
"October Daze" will be Oct. 23 at Mount Airy's Prospect United Methodist Church.
The annual bazaar will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the church, on Woodville Road in Frederick County, near Mount Airy. The community is welcome.
Crafts, Christmas items, plants, jewelry and home-baked goods will be featured at the fund-raiser. Good food, including chicken platters and sandwiches, will be served from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For more information, call (301) 829-0944.
Plates heaped with piles of pancakes, eggs, hominy, pudding, sausage, sausage gravy, apples and homemade biscuits will be served at the Winfield Community Volunteer Fire Department "All You Can Eat" breakfast Oct. 24.
The annual fall breakfast feast fund-raiser will be served from 7 a.m. to noon at the firehouse, at 1320 West Old Liberty Road (Route 26) in Winfield.
The cost is $4.50 for adults, $2.50 for children under 12.
Hats off to the many generous patrons of the Town of Mount Airy's Flood Relief Effort to benefit Alexandria, Mo.
The committee reports that $16,159 has been raised as of Oct. 13.
"We've hoping to send them a $1,000 a week," said committee member Suzanne Mead. "So far, we've been able to."
Jay Fulmer, president of the Mount Airy Lions Club, delivered a $1,000 check from the service club to the flood-relief effort Tuesday.
Mrs. Mead said Steve Costello recently donated $1,000 from Forty West Builders. American Legion Gold Star Post 191's Thursday Night Bingo Players have dedicated their weekly 50/50 prize to the relief effort, which now totals $1,026.
All donations are appreciated.
"We don't care if someone just gives five cents," said Mrs. Mead. "It all counts toward achieving our goal."