Gift donations ruined by rain

WILLOW GROVE, Pa. - December 14, 2008 Thursday night's torrential rain proved to be more than just a dreary night for Valerie Hines. Her basement flooded with close to three inches of water, leaving hundreds of donated Christmas gifts destroyed or damaged.

"I could hardly even talk when I came downstairs and saw that half of our stuff was destroyed," Valerie said.

Hines runs a small business out of her home called The Umbrella Program. It teaches life skills to children in afterschool programs and job skills to people in transitional housing and shelters to help them back on their feet.

Every Christmas, different organizations in the area, including Toys for Tots, donate presents for children who otherwise wouldn't have a Christmas.

The Umbrella Program helps about 5,000 families every year.

"They just look at us with so much love and so much hope and for this to be destroyed it just breaks my heart because this is the time of year that's most important to them," Valerie said.

Hines estimates about 1,500 toys were destroyed.

"This year even Toys for Tots was stretched because of the economic crisis and people not being able to give like they normally would," Jonathan Nelson of The Umbrella Program said.

Hines says the Umbrella Program hosts a party this week to distribute the toys so she doesn't have much time left to find people who will give gifts to replace the damaged ones.

She will spend the next couple of days trying to salvage what she can and call other organizations to ask for their help.

Hines is determined not to let these children down.

"We're still going to make it happen, one way or another," Valerie said.

To help visit or call 215-659-1375.

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