To the editor:

To the editor:

The members of The Violet Township Fire Department Local 3558 and the Violet Township Fire Fighters Association would like to thank the residents and businesses of our community for their incredible support during our 2008 Holiday Toy Drive.

The commitment of this community has again allowed us to help a significant number of families within Violet Township and throughout Fairfield County this year.

We would like to thank everyone who donated toys this year, with special thanks to the following sponsors for volunteering their services: Fairfield Federal, Pickerington Branch; Hector Gutierrez Company; Jana L. Della Flora State Farm Agency; Kroger Marketplace and Kroger on Refugee Road, Pickerington locations; Manning Family Chiropractic; Pickerington Church of the Nazarene; Pickerington Local School District; Pinnacle Orthodontics; Sears Hardware; St. Pius School kindergarten; Stonecreek Dental Care; the city of Pickerington; Division of Safety and Hygiene, Ohio BWC; Weinzierl Nationwide Agency; American Legion Post 283; La Petite Academy; Lifestyle Fitness; Meijer in Canal Winchester; Pickerington Christian Church; Pizzeria Uno; Rudolph Brothers; all business members of the Old Pickerington Village Association.

We would also like to thank P.O.D.S. (Portable on Demand Storage for the donation of storage units.

We would like to say a special thanks to the staff and students of

Harmon Road Middle School for all of their efforts in assisting us. The students and staff raised more than $8,000 this holiday season with a grand total well above $30,000 over the past five years to assist families in crisis. What an incredible show of generosity by all who were involved!

Additional thanks go to all of you who brought holiday cards, baked goods and other treats to all of our fire stations. Your thoughtfulness was appreciated and enjoyed by all. It is an honor to be part of such a generous and supportive community.

Lt. Gregg A. Goodwin

Members of the Violet Township Fire Department

To the editor:

I am writing on behalf of the PCMA Food Pantry of Pickerington, where I am the director. It is always a pleasure to be able to write this kind of letter.

As you may know, the PCMA Food Pantry recently held our first annual Holiday Fundraiser. We have never attempted anything like this before and we weren't sure of the response we would get. After all, the holidays are busy and expensive enough, with many organizations like ours looking for help at this time of year.

We also had a few genuine concerns, such as, were people getting tired of reading and hearing about us; would the economy keep them from donating; and how much was too much to ask for? Our food pantry relies solely on donations of food and money from the surrounding area to provide for the ever-increasing number of local families that need our help. We are not affiliated with government or other food banks.

The support from within our area is a blessing to us. We are grateful.

We set the goal for the fundraiser at $10,000. We named it the "Plaza of Lights." Cristie Hammond, president of Pickerington City Council, graciously agreed to be the honorary chairperson for us during the seven weeks we were collecting donations.

The idea behind the name was that for a minimum donation of $5, a light on the strands of Christmas lights to be hung in the plaza outside the food pantry would be lit. As donations would come in, the lights would be lit to show the community how we were doing and to show our clients that people truly do care and want to help. Well, the concerns previously mentioned soon turned to, "Where can we get more strings of lights and how are we going to keep them lit?"

You see, as I had prayed, God worked a Christmas miracle for us at the food pantry. Donations to the "Plaza of Lights" fundraiser were so generous, we kept blowing fuses and circuit breakers at the plaza. I apologize to all that we couldn't keep the lights lit on a consistent basis, but as problems go, I'll take that one. We'll work on that for next year.

As the holiday season came to an end, so did our PCMA Food Pantry fundraiser.

I am so very pleased to announce to all that not only did we meet the goal, but we far surpassed it. The grand total for the first ever "Plaza of Lights" was $20,002.50.

I don't know that saying thank you is enough. I want to try to express my heartfelt gratitude. I am overwhelmed by the generosity, kindness and compassion shown to us, and we want each and every person who in some way contributed to the outstanding success of this event to know and believe how very much we appreciate your donations. Thanks also go out for all of the many food donations collected and given to us. We are still working our way through the mountain of food we have received.

On a personal note, I have a few 'thank yous' to mention. First and foremost, I thank my God for the huge success of the fundraiser. He gave me the idea, and since He knows of the need to come, He has provided for it. My family is next because without their love, support, encouragement and prayers, this would have been much harder than it was.

I thank Cristie Hammond for being our honorary chairperson, Helen Mayle from the Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce, Lana Messmore and Wayne Patterson from the city of Pickerington, and John Eisel and the Violet Township firemen who put up the lights so I wouldn't have to. I have been blessed by knowing you, and couldn't have done it without you. Thank you.

In closing, I hope that if you made a contribution or donation to us, we can count on you again. If you weren't able to help us this time, I hope in the future you will consider it. Although $20,000 seems like a lot of money, it won't last forever as our expenses and client numbers increase monthly.

The need has been there for almost 20 years and for that time, you have been there for us. With your continued generosity, kindness and help, we will still be here to help meet that need. Thank you and God bless you!

Kathy Vogt

PCMA Food Pantry

of Pickerington

To the editor:

I am a Realtor in Pickerington. We, the Realtors, are trying to help people sell homes through the short sale process when the current owner is about to lose their home.

A short sale is a process where the bank settles for less than the mortgage amount to pay off the homeowner's loan. Sometimes the lender has the sellers repay the difference or even taxes the homeowner for the difference at the end of the year. We Realtors work very hard to get these short sales to go through the banking system, but most of the time, the banks let the homes go into foreclosure instead of accepting reasonable offers.

For example, I personally had a home, located on Mink Road in Pataskala, in contract. Once we got to the closing, the sellers realized that they had to bring $6,000 to the table. (The sellers represented themselves.) Of course, they did not have the funding, which these days is very typical. I represented the buyers (for $1 because the seller was not able to pay Realtor fees).

I know this couple really wanted this home so I informed the sellers of the short sale procedure. The sellers were willing to try, so they called their lender and ask if they (the lender) would work with them. Keep in mind it was a $6,000 loss. The lender said, "No, we do not do short sales."

I thought that was very odd and offered to help them. I worked and worked on this home (now representing both the buyer and the seller for $1) trying to process this short sale, but the process was so long that the buyers had to move on and subsequently purchased another home.

Now we are stuck with no offer and sellers that cannot afford their mortgage.

I listed the home We received a total of 12 offers on this home ranging from $80,000 to $115,000. Twelve offers is almost unheard of these days. I submitted every single offer to the bank and called them daily to keep up on them. The bank was not willing to work with us at all.

I kept advertising and showing this home, thinking that maybe I could get them to work with us if we got a higher offer. We once had our highest offer of $115,000 and the bank refused it. I told them that I was done and they could foreclose. I was tired of being denied for a total of nearly 200 days.

Of course, the bank ended up foreclosing and the home has now just been placed back on the market again, listed for $47,900. That is $67,100 less then the highest offer the bank turned down.

This foreclosed home now sits vacant. Because the electricity has been turned off, water has backed up in the basement. (The bank did not have the house winterized.) This once nice little home now has mold throughout the basement and will need mold remediation.

On every short sale that does not work out, we of course offer to have a plumber go out and winterize the home for $125 to keep the bank from having to pay thousands to have the mold remediation done to pass lending guidelines, but do you think they will pay it? Nope, they just turn to the government to pay for their stupid mistakes. This situation is happening more and more every day.

So, you give the banks money to bail them out of their present situation while the clients and Realtors are doing everything we can (pretty much for free) to help them out.

I really think you need to help the current owners more, the lending institutions less and study the system better. How is any of this helping the economy? The sellers are trying to get out of their situation as gracefully as they can while attempting to help the bank -- which they do not have to do.

What good is it to have vacant homes on the streets with frozen pipes and mold? The banks are losing billions by not handling these short sales properly.

The Realtors work 50 times harder than normal trying to make these short sales come together. If we received compensation after all of our hard work and advertising, I am sure that would stimulate the economy, but we do not get paid a dime. It just seems that there has to be a better way than to bail out someone that is making bad decisions.

Kari Elkins

Blacklick