LIMA — Lynn spends her days bouncing from patient to patient, making sure they have what they need.
For 7-year-old Tom, it’s taking care of his jaw until his summer surgery on it, a holdover from a cleft lip and palate at birth.
For 2-year-old Amy, it’s the patience of dealing with her seizures and developmental disabilities, which put her nine months behind her peers.
And for 3-year-old Zach, it’s breathing treatments for his respiratory ailments and cereal-laden milk because he still can’t eat normal foods. She also tries not to rile him up, as he still has one of four holes in his heart he was born with.
“I have dreams of wanting to be a nurse some days,” said Lynn, not her real name, who hopes to enroll in nursing school in the fall. “In some ways, I already am one for my kids here at home. I’m always reading up on medical stuff, and I find it easy to understand why things have to be done.”
Her whole family understands why things have to be done. The first priority is always keeping everyone healthy, which is a tough request with the expensive medications and doctor’s visits when her husband, Bob, is just making minimum wage on a third-shift job.
“It’d be nice to get a new phone or something, but I know we don’t need it right now,” said Jessica, 13.
Up until a week ago, little waited under the Christmas tree to be unwrapped today. Bob and Lynn shopped at dollar stores, getting one or two gifts for each of the five children. The Empty Stocking Fund, which provides gifts and money to needy families in the area, changed that, Lynn said.
“They will have a pretty good Christmas, thanks to the Salvation Army and the Empty Stocking Fund,” she said.
The program raised $30,910.90 for the Bradfield Community Center, Cheryl Allen Southside Community Center and the Salvation Army. It benefits hundreds of area families, including the ones profiled in the newspaper. It topped the 2008 total of $30,686.28 for the program, which raised more than $447,600 since its inception in 1992.
“We’re very pleased that we have already surpassed last year’s amount,” said Bill Clinger, marketing director for The Lima News. “We know that additional dollars will still come in, as contributions are accepted through the end of the year.”
In addition to the cash received, an estimated $7,000 worth of toys, bikes and donated merchandise from residents and businesses.
“We were really surprised we were able to raise this amount, given the economic conditions of this area,” Clinger said.
The family spends its free time working on low-priced crafts. Zach showed his Christmas spirit with a pair of white socks decorated with painted candy canes, one saying “Merry” and the other saying “Christmas.”
The children will find mostly books and crafts under the tree, thanks to the Empty Stocking Fund offerings. Lynn predicts Tom will erupt with joy when he sees the 30 die-cast cars the family received at the Salvation Army pickup.
The house is crowded, as Bob and Lynn sleep in the family room, and siblings share rooms. In better days, they dreamed of adding onto the house, perhaps making room for Bob’s parents, who have health issues of their own.
“I want to have my very own house, with anything I want in it,” said Susan, 10, jokingly. “But I want it to be in the backyard here, so I can just stop by and get whatever I need.”
Things weren’t always this hard. Bob was a guard at Lima Correctional Institution until it closed. He took another prison job out of the area but came back to Lima to help with family issues.
Still, the family is grateful for what they have.
“All I want for next Christmas is for everyone to be healthy,” Lynn said. “We still have a lot to be thankful for. We own our own house. We all love each other. There are a lot of things to be thankful for.”
The Empty Stocking Fund benefits three cooperating agencies, Bradfield Community Center, Cheryl Allen Southside Community Center and the Salvation Army. Money can be donated by sending it to The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, OH 45807, or dropped off at any Superior Federal Credit Union branch. Donations of new toys and nonperishable food items will be accepted at The Lima News office. For past stories go to www.limaohio.com/emptystocking.