Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Feel Good Stories for Christmas in the OC

Still not in the holiday mood? Here’s my advice: avoid the stores, stay home, and pour yourself a nice drink while you read some feel-good news stories about Orange County at Christmastime.

Don’t get me wrong, we can talk about the bank robberies and homicides that also happened this week, but for now, let me count down some of the nicer things that have been happening over the past few days:

Fountain Valley
(from the Fountain Valley Patch)
It’s become tradition for a lot of homes to go all out on the Christmas lighting, and Fountain Valley has always been one of the forerunners on this count. But what’s special about the one in this YouTube video is that it was done to honor a friend who had passed away in May from mesothelioma, a form of cancer.

Larry Stewart’s widow, Jan wanted to honor Larry’s wish of doing something big for Christmas, so thanks to the help of friend Damion Rodriguez, the house at 18323 Stanislaus St. is now a syncopation of lights, music and decorations -  all researched, networked, installed, and programmed in two weeks by Rodriguez. 

"Next year we hope to do a better show and start collecting donations for charities such as the American Cancer Society," adds Rodriguez, "to continue the memory of Larry."

Costa Mesa
(from the Laguna Beach Patch)
Kristen Sepulveda and her daughter Skylar Sepulveda
learn that someone has covered the balance of their
layaway purchases. (image via OC Register)
Have you heard about the layaway angels? It’s been happening all over the country, where strangers anonymously pay off the Kmart layaway purchases for others. It struck here in Costa Mesa, when David Wilson of Laguna Beach paid close to $16,000 to pay off the layaway balances for 260 people at the Kmart on Harbor Boulevard.

Inspired by a report on the news, Wilson worked with the store manager Tricia Lawrence to pay off the balances that were less than $100, of which there were about 260 people.

“It’s not potluck charity,” Wilson explained. “It’s working people who had gone in and picked out something that they want or need and made payments on it; and in many cases they are going to give it away.”

The sentiment must have caught on with others; at the same Kmart, other donors have contributed more than $8000 to paying off the balances of others. And a Kmart in Anaheim has also been hit by the layaway angels, where about a dozen people have paid off about $5000 worth of balances at the store.

Debbie Hidalgo, who has worked with Kmart for 28 years, says of the donors, “Most of them said that as kids their families struggled and now they’re in a position to help others.” 

Santa Ana
(from the Orange County Register)
Image via Embracing Hope Project
While most of us have those hobbies that we pick up, put down and eventually forget, Roxanna Moreno has been using her crocheting ability to help abused children.

Called the Embracing Hope Project, Moreno crochets teddy bears that are then donated to children in foster or protective care who have also suffered physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.

A survivor of abuse herself, Moreno identifies with the trauma abused children experience and as a result she is currently donating her bears to emergency response teams and family resource centers. While they are not accepting money donations, any supplies such as yarn, blue ribbons are gratefully accepted, as are the talents of others out there who can crochet or knit and are willing to use their talents for a good cause.

For the goal of the Embracing Hope Project, Moreno says, “I want them to embrace these bears and know that someone is out there who cares, who understands, who knows firsthand what they are going through. I want them to know they’re not alone, that it’s not the end of the road, that no matter what they’ve been through, they can overcome it and become whoever they want in life.”

You can visit the website for Project Embracing Hope here.

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