News

Christmas comes calling for needy

By JODY ALLARD

Staff writer

There*’s an empty vodka bottle by the heavy security door of Edie Kimbrough*’s Federal Way apartment building, and the pale-blue carpeted stairs up to her second-floor unit are torn and stained. But, those are sights her 9-year-old daughter, Ashanti Douggins, rarely sees.

The pair has not left the apartment since September, except for trips to the doctor. Now confined to a wheelchair, Ashanti suffers from congenital health problems that have left her reliant on a myriad of machines and pills.

What she sees instead is a cozy apartment bedecked as far as the eye can see with Christmas lights, garlands and holiday decor. Donations from their church gave Kimbrough, who also supports her two-year-old grandson, Darion, the needed funds to *“bring Christmas inside.*” Two donated stockings packed full of candy and trinkets hang over the mantle, waiting for the two children to open Christmas morning.

It*’s not something Kimbrough can speak of without tearing up. The generosity of her friends and neighbors doesn*’t go unnoticed.

Last Friday, Kimbrough and Douggins were one of more than 100 families who received food and gifts donated during the Federal Way Community Food and Toy Drive.

Sponsored by the fire department and the Federal Way Firefighter*’s Foundation, each family received a week*’s worth of groceries, including all of the fixings for a holiday turkey dinner, and staples such as milk, orange juice, cheese, butter and eggs.

Each child in the family also is given three gifts.

Looking around the comfortable Christmas oasis Kimbrough has created for her daughter, financial worries seemed far away. But, when volunteers told her the orange juice and milk destined for her family were accidentally left at the station, she winced slightly with concern.

Life isn*’t simple for Kimbrough. Her daughter requires constant care, machines to breathe and 16 pills each night.

With Ashanti unable to attend school due to health problems, Kimbrough has no choice but to teach her daughter at home.

*“School is here in the house,*” said Kimbrough.

Grandson Darion was with his mother this day, but he also resides with Kimbrough. Pointing to his picture hanging above the mantel, she is proud to show off the handsome toddler.

A few miles away at Fire Station 61, 5-year-old Jaden Hassell helped his dad, Barry, load a restored fire engine with food and gifts for needy families.

Clutching a Nintendo Game Boy in one hand, he took breaks from hauling bags of oranges and potatoes to chase the firefighters and hide from his dad.

Hassell is one of many community volunteers from local fire stations, service organizations and schools who took the donated items to needy families. Cash donations of $1,000 were received from ESM Engineers, the Firefighters Foundation and the Federal Way Lions.

As volunteers carried in the donated goods, Kimbrough looked away, teary-eyed. She said *“Thank you*” repeatedly, wishing them all happy holidays.

Ashanti, stuck in the house on what Kimbrough jokingly calls *“house arrest,*” remained strong as her mother let a few tears flow.

*“She has a lot of things going on with her, but she stays happy,*” said Kimbrough.

It was only then that Douggins*’ eyes filled with tears. But the smile stayed on her face.

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