Ample reason for cheer

Published 10:30 pm Tuesday, January 26, 2010

After two years of falling short of the $45,000 Cheer Fund goal, there is a slight temptation to feel discouraged. For more than 70 years, the Cheer Fund has helped raise money — first for food and later for toys — to help out those people in Suffolk who might otherwise face Christmas without the ability to provide for their families.

During that time, there surely have been other years when the community was unable to meet the goal set by the organization’s board of directors. Perhaps there were even other times when the program suffered the effects of two lean years in a row.

But this year, we knew that the prolonged recession, coupled with high unemployment and rising foreclosure rates, were likely to combine and create a demand for the Cheer Fund’s money like none before. John Woleben, the Toys for Tots coordinator for Suffolk, had warned us that his contacts at the Salvation Army and other referring organizations were telling him that demand for participation in the charitable program — which provides toys for children at Christmas — was unprecedented.

In response, the Suffolk News-Herald, which has sponsored the Cheer Fund fundraiser since its inception, redoubled its efforts to raise community support. During the last couple of months of 2009, there were a few dozen articles, photos, editorials, columns and graphic updates in support of the program within these pages. Regular readers may have wondered about the constant drumbeat of updates.

What’s amazing is just how many of you responded, despite the readily available and easy-to-understand reasons to have just looked the other way this year. You dropped by our office with checks or cash, you asked us to visit your places of business to take donation photos, and you mailed in your monetary support. And as the holiday drew nearer, you never let up.

Thanks to you, dear readers and Cheer Fund supporters, nearly 5,000 children in Suffolk and the surrounding area got toys this Christmas. That’s a 25-percent increase in children over the prior year, and the number of kids served rose even though the fund never reached its goal.

We hope the trend of increasing need levels out some by next year. But we know one thing — whether it does or not, the people of Suffolk will be there to help their neighbors. Thank you, Suffolk, for doing just that, and for giving us reason for cheer, not discouragement.