THEY ARE A Mount Airy family of four young children, a stay-at-home mom and a dad who works hard each day, and they have no extra money to make this a merry Christmas.
"Sometimes it's a little hard. My husband works but he just doesn't make very much money," said the mother, who asked to remain anonymous.
"There are months when I pay `this bill' and not `that one' and we have just enough food to get by. We just don't have the money to buy Christmas presents."
This is one story from Mount Airy Net, a nonprofit organization that will help families like this get through the holiday season.
"This is very hard for many of these families to come and ask for help," said Jean Colburn, director of Mount Airy Net. "They are embarrassed and I hear so many times, `I've never had to do anything like this before.'"
The need in the community is rising. Mount Airy Net will assist more than 50 area families this holiday season, up about 20 percent compared with last year.
"I've had six more applications come in today," Colburn said recently. "We have rising evictions and requests for help with power bills or heating oil, but now we are hearing from people who thought they had enough put away for the holidays, but a crisis came up."
Colburn says she is helping one family who had to use their Christmas savings to repair the roof on their home and another involved in a car wreck.
The young mother with four children first approached Mount Airy Net for help three years ago.
"I never heard of a place like this before," she said. "When they brought the Christmas presents for the kids, it was like a joy for me. It was Christmas for me."
She and her family were adopted by another local family not facing economic hardships. Mount Airy Net was the catalyst.
"They asked us to make a list of what the children wanted for Christmas and they mostly asked for clothes because that's what they really need," the mother said. "My husband and I don't ask for anything, we just ask for the kids."
Colburn said so many local people signed up to adopt a family this year that she wasn't sure she would have enough families in need. But the surge in applications for help in the past week has her working harder than ever.
"Those in need are referred to us by local churches, schools, neighbors or just by word of mouth," she said.
Mount Airy Net continues to take donations. This week, Colburn related the story of a woman who called to send a donation. The woman told Colburn she had been helped by Mount Airy Net in the past and that since her circumstances had changed, she wanted to help others.
A check for $300 arrived in the mail days later.
"We are here to help. We don't expect to be paid back, but a story like that, well, it just makes you feel like you've got to keep plugging along," she said.
Mount Airy Middle School had not one, but two toy drives for the Toys for Tots Program this year.
Assistant Principal Dennis Kniss said the fifth- and sixth- graders conducted a joint toy drive, and later, the seventh- and eighth-graders held a similar toy drive.
More than 400 new, unwrapped toys were donated to Toys for Tots, a nonprofit program run by the Marine Corps to provide toys to children in need in the community.
`A Christmas Carol'
Mount Airy Players will present the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol this weekend.
Last week's performances were canceled because of the ice storm and power outages.
The Christmas classic will be presented at 8 p.m. today and tomorrow at Calvary United Methodist Church, 403 S. Main St.
Tickets are $5. A group discount is available.
Lesa Jansen's Southwest neighborhood column appears each Friday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.