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Job losses leave Latrobe family struggling

| Thursday, Nov. 27, 2003

Warming the body is one thing.

Keeping spirits aglow is another for a Latrobe family of five that is facing the holidays with a limited income and three young children to feed and clothe.

"We met them through our after-school program," said Darlene Means, of the Salvation Army's Latrobe Community Worship Service Center. "They have three boys, ages 7 through 12, and the children were coming in with no coats during those cold days in September."

Operation Bundle Up stepped in to provide some warm winter clothing, Means said. But talking to the family made it clear that something more than coats was in order.

"Talking to the parents, we found out that they both work temporary jobs," Means said. "They hadn't been able to find any other employment for a while, and they need some help through the Christmas season."

The couple, in their mid-30s, has a home, but they've lost the jobs they held when they bought their house, Means explained. Now they're struggling to maintain the mortgage and keep a vehicle running, along with paying utility bills and insurance costs.

That doesn't leave much to buy food, clothing and other necessities, let alone to provide holiday treats and gifts for children.

With temporary employment, "you often make less than minimum wage, and it's only for 30 or 60 days, and then you don't know where or when you'll get more work," Means said. "It makes it hard."

But help is on the way, thanks to Operation Santa Claus.

This year Operation Santa Claus will pack 7,840 shopping bags with the fixings for a nutritious holiday meal: a $10 gift certificate for a meat of the family's choice, plus scalloped potatoes, stuffing, green beans, whole-kernel corn, fruit-flavored gelatin, fruit cocktail, applesauce, blueberry muffins, snack crackers, holiday cookies and hot cocoa.

In addition, 9,385 stockings will be crammed with sweets, treats and books for children ages 12 and younger.

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