From the North Pole to Jamaica

With 10 days to go, it's probably a little early for Santa Claus sightings. Otherwise, I could make a pretty good case for a brown-haired, blue-eyed grandmother named Kim Fitzgerald who answers phones at the North Portland Veterinary Hospital up on Lombard.

That's who got the clinic's 35 or so employees to pitch in for Jamaica, the mother of two young children, who lost her husband to suicide a few months ago.

'When I heard about her, I knew we had to try to do something for her,' Kim says. 'After all, it's Christmas.'

Jamaica's family was one of several selected by the Salvation Army for its Adopt-a-Family program this year.

After months of being homeless, Jamaica, her 8-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter finally had a roof over their heads, but there was no question that they needed so much more. The three of them were sleeping on a single air mattress.

The only question, when their tragic story was featured in Tuesday's Trib, was whether anyone out there would care enough to help.

'And boy, did they ever,' says Sharetta Butcher, who runs the Adopt-a-Family program at the Salvation Army's Moore Street Community Center. 'The phones were ringing off the hook.

'After we got Jamaica taken care of, I just told them there are so many more who needed their help at this time of year.'

• • •

One of them would be Bruce, a single father of two little girls, trying to pull himself up by his bootstraps by working 25 hours a week as a night janitor at $8 an hour.

If things go right, Bruce, who's 46, says he'd like to get a better job some day. Or at least one that would allow him to work more hours.

In fact, Bruce is fortunate to be doing anything at all right now.

A little over a year ago, he was blindsided by a hit-and-run driver while riding his bike along Northeast Broadway. The right side of his face was shattered, requiring reconstructive surgery, and there was apparently some brain damage.

Doctors have told him that the bleeding in his brain stopped on its own, but he still has what they called a 'cognitive disorder' that sometimes affects his ability to solve problems.

So everything considered, Bruce says, he's happy to have the part-time janitorial job. Although with Christmas coming up, it's a little hard to see how he's going to buy presents for the kids. That bothers him a lot these days.

• • •

Not to mention the fact that about three weeks ago someone took off with Bruce's bottom denture. He has no idea what happened to it.

'Maybe the neighbor's dog took it,' he says. 'I don't know.'

When he went to the dentist, the dentist said it would cost him $600 to get another.

'Six hundred dollars!' Bruce said. The guy might as well have asked for the moon.

So besides everything else, Sharetta and the crew over at the Salvation Army are hoping to get Bruce his bottom teeth for Christmas.

And if this is beginning to sound like a corny old Christmas song, feel free to join right in. You can reach Sharetta at 503-493-3925.

Contact Phil Stanford by phone at 503-546-5166 or by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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