15 Good News Stories: Santa Says You’ve All Been Good Neighbors

Beth Dalbey

ACROSS AMERICA — The Patch sleigh is filled with beautiful bits from our hardworking elves — the team of editors from across America who turn out news stories about what’s going on in your town — starting with this tale about the real Alice from 1960s icon Arlo Guthrie’s holiday-ish ballad “Alice’s Restaurant.”

Sarasota, Florida, musician Dini Lamot knows the essentially true but hilariously exaggerated story behind the 18-minute Vietnam War-protest anthem. When Lamot accepted a residential landscaping job in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in 1991, he immediately recognized the name of his client:

Alice Brock, the woman who had cooked up a feast that Guthrie crooned “could not be beat” at her home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and whose trash Guthrie was convicted of illegally dumping on Thanksgiving in 1965 — a conviction that resulted in him being rejected for the draft.

“I said, ‘Wait, you’re Alice of Alice’s Restaurant?’ ” Lamot said in 1991 when he met her. “And we just hit it off right away,” he told Patch.

They became good friends — such wonderful friends, in fact, that when Lamot learned Brock, now 80, was struggling with poor health and mounting medical debt, he and his longtime partner organized a crowdfunding campaign that raised more than $180,000. Read Tiffany Razzano’s fascinating story about their friendship on Sarasota Patch.

(Photo courtesy of Dini Lamot)
(Photo courtesy of Dini Lamot)

Here are 14 more stories to bring you good cheer:

Holiday 50 Years In The Making

Wendy Gallagher has a lot to be thankful for during the holiday season — and all year long. After five decades, the San Rafael, California, woman, received the holiday gift of meeting her birth mother and extended family. She had known since a child that she had been adopted as a newborn — but what she didn’t know was that her birth mother lived a few blocks away. "I have a family that raised me, and now I have a bonus family, too," the 54-year-old Gallagher told Patch. By Kristina Houck for San Rafael Patch

(Photo courtesy of Wendy Gallagher)
(Photo courtesy of Wendy Gallagher)

The Gift Of Charity: 32K Free Meals

Billy Dove and Thomas Loughlin felt the terrifying force of the coronavirus pandemic on multiple levels. They were both infected with the virus. The rest of Loughlin’s family members were as well. And the longtime business partners saw a year’s worth of catering events canceled in the span of a week. But it gave them the gift of charity to New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood. They considered lending their skills to various meal missions, but that didn’t work out. They hooked up with the Community League of the Heights and, since mid-May, have served 180 free dinners to families in Upper Manhattan. That's over 32,000 free meals. By Gus Saltonstall for Washington Heights-Inwood Patch

(Photo courtesy Company on Edgecombe)
(Photo courtesy Company on Edgecombe)

“Nestled All Snug In Their Beds”

Two women working the night shift at the neonatal intensive care unit at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare know having a baby who requires specialized medical care is already tough on parents — but when it happens during the holidays and a pandemic, it can be especially scary and lonely. To lift parents’ spirits, unit secretary Jocelyn Forehand and NICU nurse Yamanda Williams created Yuletide onesies and hats for the babies (top photo). By Jeff Arnold for Tallahassee Patch

(Photo courtesy of Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare)
(Photo courtesy of Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare)

“A Christmas Story” Leg Lamp

Seeing a giant leg lamp might make you as horrified as Mrs. Parker was during its unveiling in "A Christmas Story." But that recognizable lamp has brought holiday cheer to a Chatham, New Jersey, neighborhood. Every night at 5:30 p.m., a light on Steven C. Fleisch's lawn turns on. From there, the wood-carved leg lamp gleams from lampshade to heel, all the way down the fishnet-covered appendage. As people drive down the street, past some houses with traditional Christmas lights, Fleisch's newest creation always gives them a laugh. "I've had people drive by and give me the thumbs-up," Fleisch told Patch. "Everybody that slows down is really happy to see it." By Josh Bakan for Chatham Patch

(Photo courtesy of Steven C. Fleisch)
(Photo courtesy of Steven C. Fleisch)

The Only Santa Some Kids Will See

A folding table overflowed with Barbies, Play-Doh, all the trucks a kid could want, and a line of cars flowed into the street. With holiday music blasting and their ugly sweaters on, teachers and administrators at Phoenix’s Maryland Elementary School kicked off the last day of the semester with a drive-thru toy drive. Each student, from kindergarten through third grade, was allowed to pick out one present from the comfort of their car and say hi to Santa, also known as Principal Nick Gupton. "A lot of the moms are going, 'You're the only Santa they're going to see this year,'" Gupton told Patch. By Lindsay Walker for Phoenix Patch

(Lindsay Walker/Patch)
(Lindsay Walker/Patch)

Christmas On The Streets

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, when many Americans planned to be cloistered with their immediate families to celebrate, Jeffrey Newman and Jayson Conner planned to fan out across New York City to hand out to those who don’t have homes the Christmas gifts they’ve gathered through their nonprofit, Backpacks for the Street: hundreds of sandwiches and backpacks stuffed with sleeping bags, coats, sneakers, toiletries and pandemic-era essentials such as masks and hand sanitizers. Their goal is simple: to give people often left out of Christmas some cheer and joy along with food. “These are people, too,” Conner said. By Maya Kaufman for Forest Hills Patch

(Photo courtesy of Backpacks for the Street)
(Photo courtesy of Backpacks for the Street)

More Holiday Care For Homeless Folks

Entrepreneur Michael Panchery did his part for people without housing, too. The Hillsborough, New Jersey, High School graduate raised more than $600 through the sale of cell phone cases to help 96 people without a bed to lay their heads. That’s double the number of people he was able to help last year — and it's due in large part to the volunteers who assisted with sales. “It is comforting to know that during these difficult times, and under these circumstances, there are still people willing to give back to their community," he said. The holiday care packages include hats, gloves, socks and hygiene kits. By Alexis Tarrazi for Hillsborough Patch

(Photo courtesy of Michael Panchery)
(Photo courtesy of Michael Panchery)

Caution: Heavily Loaded Sleigh Ahead

Really, all you need to know about the “stuff the sleigh” event held in East Goshen Township, Pennsylvania, is this from Danny Leicht, a township official who helped organize the drive that raised nearly $2,800 in 10 days: “Community is about being there for one another especially in times of hardship.” The drive’s success, he said, “showed what the community and Christmas spirit is all about.” By Marlene Lang for Westchester Patch

(Photo courtesy of Friends of East Goshen)
(Photo courtesy of Friends of East Goshen)

Good Tidings Brings Good Tidings

Good Tidings Plumbing Heating and Cooling has a fitting name. The company delivered good tidings and more to Garwood, New Jersey, resident Peter Feldon, who has stage 4 cancer, when his furnace went out during a snowstorm. The fix cost about $1,700, but owner David McKenna told Feldon not to worry about it. "If someone needs the money more than we do, we do it for free," McKenna told Patch. "Especially around the holidays.” By Alexis Tarrazi for Clark-Garwood Patch

“A Christmas Miracle”

Six-year-old Ryder Feeley’s mom says there’s no other way to explain it: “This is really the Christmas miracle” the North Haven, Connecticut, family had been praying for. The first grader had already undergone surgery to remove a section of a massive tumor from his brain and will go through chemotherapy for a year, but the tumors discovered inside his body aren’t cancerous. By Ellyn Santiago for East Haven Patch

(Photo courtesy of Nicole Feeley)
(Photo courtesy of Nicole Feeley)

Santa Wears A Fireproof Suit

Firefighters in Vernon, Connecticut, were sorting gifts donated in their annual Toys for Tikes program when fire alarm came in. They found flames coming out of windows of an apartment building and residents hanging from the windows to escape them. Firefighters were able to get everyone out; there were no fatalities, but a couple of people were taken to the hospital. Four families were devastated with loss. People from all over Vernon are helping out, and the fire department added a few more names to the 200 families already served by Toys for Tikes. "Being there when people need help is what we're all about," Assistant Fire Chief Robert Babcock said. By Chris Dehnel for Vernon Patch

(Photo courtesy of Town of Vernon)
(Photo courtesy of Town of Vernon)

It's Not Much? It's Everything.

Spitfire Tacos owner Kathleen Rodgers insists her gift to Salem, Massachusetts, isn’t much — “just the eight hams, the beans and rice” — just something to help provide comfort to people who are missing their families this Christmas as much as she and her partner, Ryan, are missing theirs. They planned to open their restaurant on Christmas Eve to offer free takeout meals of Spitfire's mix of rice, beans, salad and tamarind apple Christmas ham. By Scott Souza for Salem Patch

(Photo courtesy of Spitfire Tacos)
(Photo courtesy of Spitfire Tacos)

Oodles And Oodles Of Cards

A flurry of recruitment calls and posts on social media resulted in 200 cards and twice as many handwritten messages to be delivered to people who are alone during the holidays — those in hospice, folks in long-term care, others in assisted living. It started when MacKenzie Stacy, a high school senior in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, made it her mission to see that people don’t feel so alone. “MacKenzie is a super kid,” said Chelmsford High School Dean John MacIsaac. “She is such a thoughtful, caring and polite person who always puts others first.” By Jenna Fisher for Chelmsford Patch

(Chris O'Donnell/Chelmsford High School)
(Chris O'Donnell/Chelmsford High School)

What You Can Do To Spread Holiday Cheer

We close with some glimpses from Patch editor Nicole Charky’s exclusive interview with “Queer Eye” star Karamo Brown, who teamed with Zelle to gift $25,000 to three people. You may not have the financial resources he does, but there are many ways to help spread holiday cheer and support one another — from a distance — during an unprecedented global health pandemic. "If they have the capacity within themselves to reach out to someone else, I think this is the moment that you need to do it," Brown said. "The thing is we're all experiencing this pandemic, the financial loss. We're all experiencing so many things together, but I think sometimes just that human connection is what can really allow us to feel as if we can get through." By Nicole Charky for Los Angeles Patch

(Photo courtesy of Karamo Brown)
(Photo courtesy of Karamo Brown)

This article originally appeared on the Across America Patch