The forgotten children’s fund remembers
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Author: Mary Swift, Seattle P-I Columnist
Published: Tuesday, December 2, 2008
The year was 1989. Steve Lockitch's 82-year-old mother had died in April. The holiday season was in full swing. But amid all the seasonal trappings -- music, decorations, celebration -- Lockitch didn't feel a bit of joyous anticipation.
Loneliness settled in like an unwelcome guest, cozying up to the grief that was already his companion.
"It was the worst Christmas ever," says Lockitch, who is single and has no children. "So I said, no more Christmases like that."
The next year, walking between bus stops on his way home, Lockitch encountered a volunteer with the Forgotten Children's Fund, a nonprofit organization started in 1976. Each year an army of Santas and elves from the Forgotten Children's Fund deliver Christmas presents to needy children. This year, the organization will make Christmas happen for 2,900 children
The woman running the organization's gift wrapping center that year invited Lockitch to wrap.
"Well, I'm kind of a klutz," he told her. "She invited me to an elves meeting. So I went there and helped load the trucks. They asked if I wanted to help deliver. I said, 'Yeah.' That was it.
"I was hooked."
Lockitch, now 66 and retired from the state Transportation Department, hit the thrift stores to find green clothes. (An elf has to look the part.)
This month marks his 19th season as an elf -- and time hasn't worn away his excitement.
Not even cancer could stop him.
"I lost a lung in 1996," Lockitch says. "But it doesn't stop me. Not a bit. They took out a lung, and after that I was as good as new."
On Friday, he was busy helping stock gift tables in preparation for wrapping.
On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, he'll be among the elves helping Santa deliver presents.
Buzz Larson, vice president of the Forgotten Children's Fund and director of operations, says Lockitch is one of probably 800 volunteers who will be involved this year.
Lockitch loves the fact that volunteers fuel the effort. "The beauty of this is that there is no paid staff like other charities. The buildings are donated, so there's no rent. All we pay for is heat, electricity, food to feed the volunteers and gas."
For Lockitch, the memories gleaned over the years are indelible.
"All of these families are heartbreaking," he says. "One year we were in Burien. We drove around and around looking for this family and couldn't find it. We looked at the address. It was a tavern. But there were kids, so it couldn't be a tavern. We drove around back and saw some bikes. That was it. They were living in one or two rooms behind the tavern.
"One place we went, there was this little boy who wanted to play toys with me, insisted on it."
Several years ago, there was a family from Pierce County that wrote to the Forgotten Children's Fund. "It really tugged on my heartstrings," Lockitch says.
There were three children whose parents had been killed in a head-on accident around Thanksgiving, Lockitch says. Other relatives had come from out of state to care for them. In all, 11 youngsters faced a Christmas without presents.
Children selected to receive a visit from a Forgotten Children's Fund Santa get a bicycle and a helmet (if desired), three gifts, a warm coat and a stocking. The organization also provides warm blankets and food staples for families.
Lockitch says he'll stay involved in the project "until I can't move anymore or I die -- whichever comes first." After all, he's got special incentive.
"I can feel my mom looking down at me and pushing me on," he says. "And I always tell people, this is a good way to lose the blues."