Wanda Heverling and her two young children lie ill with strep throatjust a few days before Christmas, but the 27-year-old mother couldn't be happier.
With a bit of luck and a lot of heart, Heverling andabout a dozen people from an Odenton community association raised $2,300 to buy toys for needy children.
Heverling can't quite believe it.
"There are no words for whatI feel," said the Chapelgate resident, who came up with the idea of the raffle.
"We were only shooting at $1,500, and to get to $2,300-- I'm just overjoyed. You want to cry; you want to shout."
The Chapelgate Community Association sold the $1 raffle tickets in just two weekends, with prizes donated by politicians and businesses.
K mart gave the association a 10 percent discount on toys, which enabledmembers to spend $2,700 shopping. The toys went to WPOC radio station, which distributed them to 19 area homeless shelters Friday, said Carol Leister, an association member.
Heverling was wrapping Christmas gifts for her own children, ages 3 and 5, last month when she heard a radio pitch for toys for homeless children.
"It just touches you," she said. "A child going without a gift, it's not fair. You want to help."
The association set out to help, buying 400 gifts for the shelters along with clothing and toys for nine needy children they sponsored for Christmas through the Odenton Church of God.
To organize the raffle, Heverling wrote letters to elected officials and contacted businesses.
With money from county politicians, the Chapelgate Association bought a Nintendo system for the raffle, and storessuch as Caldor and Lowes Hardware donated other presents.
About adozen members of the 200-member association set up raffle tables outside several discount department stores, and on two Saturdays, more than 2,000 people bought raffle tickets.
Other businesses donated wrapping paper, and a pizza restaurant fed the volunteers for lunch onthe two weekends theyworked the raffle tables.
"We shopped like shopaholics," said Heverling. "We went nuts. Then it took us about 13 hours to wrap it all at a big wrapping party at my house."
Chapelgate, a 550 duplex-housing complex of middle-income families, in recent years did not have an active community association. But last spring, prompted by problems with increasing crime, residents decided to reorganize the association, Leister said.
Leister helped the projectby finding another discount store that donated display items from its windows. That added several bags of large, beautiful dolls and other toys to the gift pile.
Said Heverling, "I know what it's like tohave it be Christmas and have children. We wanted all the gifts to go for children. Christmas is for kids. As a parent, if I couldn't give my child a gift for Christmas and somebody did it for me, it would be such a relief.
"I've never been unable to buy my kids gifts, but I know how I could feel. And knowing you've helped somebody out is so wonderful. Even if I don't finish my shopping, my Christmas is successful."