When it came time to plan this year's staff Christmas party, Shawna Musgrove thought about her office's annual tradition -- and the money spent on gifts no one really wanted.
Musgrove, an executive assistant for the Greater Annapolis Chamber of Commerce, thought she had a better idea.
Why not give the money that staff members would have spent on a party and gifts for one another to someone who'd appreciate it?
Through the Salvation Army, Musgrove found a family in need of help. But now, with Christmas approaching, she's desperately short on donations -- and hoping for some last-minute goodwill.
Finding the family took some doing. First, Musgrove considered helping the homeless, but decided against dropping off gifts at a shelter without a clear idea of who'd receive them.
Then she called the Southern Anne Arundel County Salvation Army. After a few minutes on the phone with office manager Cynthia Marbury, Musgrove knew she had the right place.
Musgrove told Marbury that the chamber wanted to buy gifts for a needy family with three young children.
Each year, the Salvation Army runs a program in which individuals and groups can "adopt a family." The groups give their adopted families clothing, toys and food, Christmas gifts the families might not get otherwise.
This year, 300 families signed up for help. Last year, groups and individuals adopted only 75 of 325 families who applied. The Salvation Army gave the other families baskets with enough food for three to five days, and two new toys per child.
Applications this year have come from families who've recently lost jobs, families headed by single parents and elderly people who live on Social Security.
"We can match an agency or corporation with the size family they can afford," Marbury said.
She sends all names through the county's Holiday Sharing clearinghouse, to make sure no one gets a double dose of help while others get none.
When Musgrove called, Marbury suggested the chamber adopt an Annapolis family, a single mother with a 1-year-old girl, a 3-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy.
They need girls' clothing, size 2 and 4, and shoes, size 5 and 10. They also need boy's clothing, size 7, and shoes, size 1. The mother wears size 18 and a size 8 shoe.
The family also has asked for toys and food, as well as household items such as blankets, sheets and towels.
"This way, I know who (the gifts) are going to and that they'll be appreciated," said Musgrove, who began asking her colleagues, chamber members and the public to donate gifts or cash.
Now, as Christmas draws near, Musgrove has begun to worry.
Several people have donated coloring books and crayons. But few have brought clothing or food.
Though the Salvation Army needs the chamber's gifts by Friday, Musgrove will accept donations after that and deliver them to the organization's headquarters.
In keeping with its policy, the Salvation Army won't disclose the family's name -- not even to the chamber.
But Musgrove hopes to bend the rules a bit on Christmas Eve.
"I would like to deliver gifts to the family and have someone dress up as Santa Claus," Musgrove said.
For more information, call 268-7676.