by Jim Crumpley

I had no idea when we started donating presents to kids at Christmas in 1981, forty years later it would still being going strong. Given this year is the 40th Anniversary of Help Give Hope, we wanted to highlight a few things that have made the decades rewarding, memorable and something that's been a big part of our lives in such a positive way. Between now and the upcoming Christmas Season, we'll remind some of you of things forgotten about HGH, and for many newcomers in the last few years, stuff you've never heard before - certainly good material.
Nothing about HGH was initially planned, and none of us had any longer-term plans for a charity, simply something to do to donate a bit to charity. Early on our crew consisted of Wade, Joe Kremer, myself and whoever we could coble together. Our first collaboration was to take $500 each and donate it to the Marine Corps Toys for Tots. They'd been having a tough fund raising year so apparently our donation was a big-enough deal that they had a TV camera crew at Venture Store (corner of Glenstone and Erie, next to Friendly Ford). It grew bit by bit from there. Jeff Hutchens was one of our first volunteers and he loved having things continually screwed up - the more the better, but the rest of us would have preferred a bit more structure. It took us a while to learn that more was not better when it came to delivering presents because stringing out ten + cars of volunteers meant that at least half the vehicles got stuck at lights and back then no one had cell phones or even walkie talkies, it took forever. Deliveries were a constant series of families who were not where they were supposed to be or we couldn't find them - which was not too bad at first but the miscues grew more problematic as we grew.

Given our general lack of organization, deliveries usually ran late and were often after dark. Help Give Hope has never been blessed by what I'd consider "High Quality Dogs" and most of the malcontented animals we encountered had no hesitation to go after any of us they could get close to, with the most satisfaction taking a run at anyone in a Santa suit, particularly in dwindling daylight. They also did a lousy job of cleaning up after themselves so keeping your shoes clean was problematic. The lack of daylight also made trying to see street signs, curb signs, addresses, etc., difficult if not impossible. Cutting edge innovations such as spotlights, GPS or anything a normal operation might use to find their way around town were still years away, at least for us. Once, for example, when we were getting close to the final delivery of the day, Wade and I (commanding the sleigh all alone by this point), meandered to the west end of Sunshine St. where we went to a trailer park out past a few run down bars and a strip club. We selected what we thought was the correct dimly-lit trailer and unloaded what remained of our delivery items. Knocking on the door we noticed the woman answering the door seemed confused but she certainly was glad to see that we had brought ample Christmas presents for her son, since he had no idea he was getting anything and he didn't seem to mind that most of the stuff didn't fit him. Santa answered a few standard-issue "Santa Questions" which seemed to generally satisfy the boy, thankfully he didn't ask me to name all the Reindeers. Dashing away in our empty sleigh we noticed at another trailer, a woman casting a lonely glance in our direction and we soon discovered that she had been waiting for us for over two hours. Gradually it dawned on us that we had delivered to the wrong house and of course we were out of stuff. The first lady had no intention of giving anything back except she did say their clothes didn't exactly provide a snug fit. The other lady just wanted stuff that she was told she'd get. We stripped the first house bare of contents and re-delivered them to the correct trailer - all sizes fit they were supposed to. We then went back to the original residence, got correct sizes, went to Walmart on W Sunshine, re-shopped for the wrong family and that was the end of that. Similar things have happened dozens of times but you get the general idea!