Having 500 needy kids depend on you for a happy Christmas is a big weight to bear.

It's a greater strain on the conscience when, after 14 years, you don't have the funds to continue the long tradition.

Lorraine Anderson began giving out gifts to kids in 1995, when she started Miracle on Church Street, a large, fun holiday party held at the Tucson Convention Center. But this year, the Oro Valley resident is afraid it won't happen if sponsors don't step up to the plate.

Anderson was inspired to begin the act of kindness by memories of standing in line herself as a child in Boston during the Great Depression. Local business people were caring and generous enough to donate toys to kids who wouldn't otherwise experience the joys of Christmas, Anderson included.

The Tucson event started with 300 children receiving gifts from Santa at TCC. It eventually grew to include 4,000. Later, when Anderson decided to add a sit-down turkey dinner, she had to limit the number to 500, letting the school districts select the families most in need.

"Kids come from Oro Valley, Marana, the Northwest side, West side, all over — not just the south side," Anderson said. "I'd like to this year go to churches and agencies that help these children and ask for their help to pick out the children of need."

In 2004, Anderson added a golf tournament to generate more funds for the Christmas party. Even that, however, requires money to run. Assuming some good citizens come along to participate in sponsorships, Anderson claims she can put together a golf tournament in no time.

"I've had 20 calls and several e-mails lately," Anderson said. "People want to play." She has close to 800 people on her golf e-mail list from past years. "We need at least 100 players." But Anderson doesn't think that'll be a problem. "A golfer is a golfer – they'll do whatever they can to play."

For about $100 each, plus a donated toy, participants get a bargain, considering the 18-hole outing includes lunch, tee packages and the opportunity to win prizes.

Sheffield's Diamonds provided raffle prizes in the past, and others have donated trips and golf related items. Oro Valley Rotary committed support this year, as in the past, and other previous sponsors include The Explorer, Royal Buick, Van's Golf Shops, Territorial Signs and DakotaCom.Net.

The tournament would likely be held in October or November. "Vistoso Golf Course or anywhere – they love to have it," Anderson asserted.

TCC charges Anderson thousands of dollars to hold the dinner there the week before Christmas. She's hoping this year a local hotel will come forward and offer space for no charge, reducing the amount she'd have to raise through donations. "It's needed more now than ever before," she stressed. "I need help talking about it."

The thought of letting down so many children breaks her heart, as if they were her own. She wants the community to consider these youngsters who may go without a little holiday joy this year.

"Look at your kids and their toys on Christmas morning," Anderson said. "These children are not getting what your children are getting." But, she emphasized, it doesn't have to be that way.


Miracle on Church Street

To help, contact Lorraine Anderson, Miracle On Church Street, scorand@dakotacom.net

Also visit www.tucsonmiracle.org

Mission: To bring happiness and the Christmas spirit to the underprivileged children of the community of Tucson and Southern Arizona and surrounding areas.

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