It's quite uplifting this time of year to see the amount of charity groups making an effort to brighten the holidays for those less fortunate.

These are trying times for many families, given the amount of people out of work and the growing numbers of persons on fixed income. When it comes to helping others in need, this area has an impressive history. Charitable giving has been a fabric in the makeup of many of our local communities for generations.

One hundred years ago, Livingstone's, one of the larger retail stores in Tamaqua, gave local children an opportunity to write Santa Claus a letter. One little girl added a humorous postscript to her note, expressing a hope that she would grow up to marry one of the Santa Claus children.

The letters of some of the other children whose families were suffering during the Christmas season in 1911, touched the heart of the editor of the Tamaqua Courier, who published some of their observations in the newspaper.

"There were many pitiful requests from poor children," he told his readers.

One little girl, Mary Hadaway from Coaldale, wrote:

Dear Mr. Santa Claus,

Please bring me a sled, a doll, a little red rocking chair. I would ask you to bring me an artificial leg but my mother said that I am too young to wear one. I am seven years old. I am a good girl and go to school every day.

And one Tamaqua boy, Master Edward Rogers, wrote (misspells included):

Dear Santa Claus,

Please bring me a pair of High top Shoes and pleas bring a bouquet of flowers for my brothers grave and pleas santa don't forget the flowers. I am a little boy only 6 years old.

Judging from the tone of the letters, the Tamaqua Courier editor determined there were many more destitute families in the area than he first realized. He was also amazed at the maturity of the young letter-writers, noting that there there were few requests for toys.

"The children state they want a pair of shoes, a coat, a pair of stockings or some other useful article for wearing apparel, besides asking for something to eat," he explained.

The Courier newspaper office then launched a community-wide campaign to raise funds for the poor, an effort that they felt "would gladden many a sorrowful home" for Christmas. It is a positive commentary on this area to know that even a century ago the economic hardship of so many local families inspired so many to help, just as we're seeing today.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com