In Latonia Lakes, a True Christmas Miracle Brought On by Local Angel
There is something about this time of year, and goodwill toward men, that brings out the angels among us.
An angel surfaced in the Latonia Lakes community in Taylor Mill this Christmas season. Latonia Lakes has had its fair share of problems through the years, and the residents often struggle more than average families. Jamie and Steve Twehues have lived in the area for about ten years, and understand first hand how tough life is, and how important it is for the children in the neighborhood to not feel picked on, and to have respect for the police and authority.
"We are all working to change things for the better here," said Jamie Twehues. "At one point we had our trash pickup cut off because our roads were so bad. It is a long process."
The former city of Latonia Lakes worked with Kenton County to address the failing roads.
Meanwhile, last spring, Jamie met a lady who lives in Latonia who wanted to adopt a family for Christmas. After talking to Jamie for a few months about the lifestyle of the children in the Latonia Lakes community, the lady told Jamie she would like to adopt all the children in the community for Christmas.
"At first we were talking about 35 to 40 children, but then we realized we were talking 78 children, from birth to 18 years," said the lady, who wishes to remain anonymous. "I took a deep breath and said OK, we can do this. Challenge accepted."
Jamie thought her friend would be intimidated, but the information only served to fuel the lady's determination to make the daunting task of creating a memorable Christmas for these children happen.
"I gathered together my family, friends and coworkers, and we set about making lists, and charts, and scouring ads for sales," said the lady. "I had Jamie tell the children to write letters telling Santa what they wanted most for Christmas. I had all my volunteers return the presents to me unwrapped, so that I could make sure all the children would get what they wanted, and that the presents would be even."
She lived, ate, and breathed the project for the month of December, living by the charts and spreadsheets. Her goal: to have Santa deliver the presents to the Lighthouse, a church-based community center beside Oakridge Baptist where the children go to hang out after they get off the school buses. Every Friday night there is a get together, but on Friday, December 18, the gathering was scheduled to bring Christmas to the families and children.
"Brother Byron Lile is in charge at the Lighthouse, and at Christmas we like to do a pageant, and then have pizza and cake," said Jamie. "This year, we decided to have Santa come and have presents for all the children. For the children who couldn't come for some reason, we will deliver the presents to them."
The pageant went off without a hitch, and tiny shepherds and kings and angels walked onto the set, prompted by moms and older children, at just the right time. Songs and a sermon followed, with Brother Lile hoping the real meaning of Christmas would get through to the children. While pizza was served, gifts were sorted and finally brought to the main room, and the excitement of the children was palpable.
The gifts were distributed and the children managed to wait until they were all handed out before opening them. Amid cries of 'It's just what I wanted!' and 'Look Mom!', the party wound down and the children prepared to leave, holding tightly to their new riches.
But the one who felt she had the most riches was the anonymous lady.
"I do feel like Santa," she said with a grin. "This season I have come to see how blessed I am. We are not rich, but we can help. Some of the stories of these kids are heartbreaking. I have cried so many times. But it has absolutely been worth it. I would do it again."
What makes people reach out at this time of year, and come out of their comfort zone to make a real difference to their fellow man? In this case, the lady's only reward was the sudden sparkle in a child's eyes as they opened a gift they didn't really think they would get but they asked for it anyway, believing in the miracle of Christmas. She got her reward, went home with the satisfaction of a job well done, and the memory of the sparkle in the children's eyes, and never thinks she is one of the army of angels among us.
Story & photos by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor