Anonymous donation spreads cheer in Oak Creek

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Throughout today, Oak Creek Mayor Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman and resident Maynard Short get to act a little like Santa Claus, though Short said he refuses to dress up like old St. Nick.

The pair plans to drive around Oak Creek today, giving needy families food baskets and gift certificates good for toys, items at the local thrift store and dental checkups.

The gifts were made possible with a $2,500 anonymous donation from a man who told Short that he wanted the money given to Oak Creek families who could use a little help during the holiday season.

Short asked Rodeman to help find those families, which she has done through talking with school officials, employees at the post office and others.

"It's just neat that the people who have (also) care about the people who have not," Rodeman said.

The donation was used to buy nine $100 food baskets and two $50 food baskets. All food was bought at Oak Creek's Select Super Market, which happily gave Rodeman and Short a special deal on the supplies, Rodeman said.

There are 20 $25 gift certificates that can be used only for toys at the local drug store and 10 $25 gift certificates for the local thrift store.

The funds also bought 10 gift certificates for dental checkups for children, Rodeman said.

This time of year is especially tough for a lot of people, Rodeman said, as heating bills rise and families are confronted with the added costs of buying holiday gifts.

Rodeman knows from firsthand experience how big a difference a donated gift can make in someone's life. In the mid-1980s, she was raising eight children -- some of them were foster children -- and gifts for the children that she could not afford were just dropped off at her Oak Creek home.

"I could not believe (it)," Rodeman said about the gifts that were anonymously left. "When I could afford so little for each of those kids, and we had a mountain -- we had a literal mountain."

That's just the way that Oak Creek works, she said, with neighbors pitching in to help neighbors.

"It's a little community, and everybody knows if you're trying and you're not quite getting there," Rodeman said.

If other donations are made, Rodeman said she hoped to find ways to help seniors with heating bills and other needs, or fill other community needs.

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