BRATTLEBORO -- This is the season of miracles.
It's the time of the year when everyone has a little bit of kid in them and extra faith that sometimes believing in something is enough to make it happen.
Pat Smith, who has been counting the checks for the Reformer Christmas Stocking for more than 20 years, believes the annual appeal will meet its goal, even though it seems like every year it takes a little bit longer to get there.
"It's not like the good old days when we always got there before Christmas," Smith said Friday as a fresh stack of envelopes filled with checks sat on her desk. "As long as people keep sending in the money we'll get there. I know we'll get there because we never haven't."
As of Friday afternoon the Reformer Christmas Stocking was $9,707.54 short of reaching its goal of raising $90,000, every penny of which is used to buy winter clothing that will eventually be handed out to children in the region.
This is the 77th year that the Brattleboro Reformer has supported the effort to raise money to purchase winter clothing for area children.
The donations arrive in the form of rolled pennies and in checks for thousands of dollars from some of the area's largest businesses. Money comes in from every town in the region, as well as from Maryland, Virginia, Colorado, California, and even a single anonymous check for $5,000 that comes in every year from Canada. Families that have been sending in money for decades write out a $25 check, as much a part of the holiday tradition as sending Christmas cards or wrapping gifts.
And every year, Smith said, some local group comes up with a new way to raise money.
This year the Brattleboro Union High School Madrigals held a special concert and raised $796.
"For some people it's automatic this time of year. We have been getting checks from some families for a lot of years," said Smith. "It seems like it takes a little longer every year, but we always get there."
Last year the Reformer Christmas Stocking did not reach its goal until Jan. 3, and in the end $94,519.88 was raised.
While the annual appeal for donations happens during the holiday season, it is a year-round endeavor. Buyers purchase winter clothing toward the end of the winter when lots of unpurchased coats, hats, mittens and boots become available at discount. Then through the spring and summer the clothing comes in and volunteers unpack it and store it, by size, in Brattleboro. When students arrive at school in September counselors identify those who qualify for the program, and the paper work is read by volunteers. Then, in October, when it starts to get cold the families show up to pick put their winter clothes.
Last year about 1,300 children were outfitted with clothes for the cold New England weather.
But it all starts with the donations.
"I believe," said Smith. "You have to."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com; or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.