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South Jeffco residents provide gifts for family in Friendly Hills

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By Deborah Swearingen

Ellen Haviland is quick to describe herself as a busy mother of eight. But to her children, she is much more than that.

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“She’s on the go, on the clock 24/7. (And) she doesn’t give up on us,” 19-year-old Tristen Haviland said.

“(She is) Wonder Woman,” Donavan Haviland, 24, added.

Ellen also caught the attention of her Morrison neighbor Kathleen Hulme. And because of this, Christmas came early for the Haviland family.

Two days before the holiday, residents of Morrison’s Friendly Hills neighborhood gathered outside of the Haviland home. Wrapped presents packed nearly every inch of open space in the car parked out front, and Santa Claus hats sat atop the heads of some of those assembled outside.

Inside, eight children and two parents waited patiently. The children sat on the couch with their mom and dad standing behind. Across the room, the family Christmas tree stood tall, but there were no gifts underneath.

That soon would change.

It started with two TVs

Several months ago, when Hulme saw a posting for two free TVs on Nextdoor, a private social networking service for neighborhoods, she rushed out the door to ensure she was the first one in line to retrieve the TVs. Unbeknownst to her, Ellen Haviland called in advance, claiming both.

The two agreed Hulme would take one and Ellen would take the other. But after the chance encounter, Hulme couldn’t get the Haviland family out of her mind.

When she later discovered Ellen had eight children, a broken car that couldn’t carry the entire family and a husband with serious health issues, Hulme knew she had to help.

“(It was) women’s intuition, I guess, that said I need to reach out to these guys,” Hulme said.

Then the real work began.

Hulme enlisted the help of her family, Friendly Hills neighbors, local businesses in South Jeffco and beyond and members of her “Just Ain’t Right” bunco group. She asked for financial contributions and gift donations.

And when everything was said and done, Hulme raised approximately $1,800 – more than enough to purchase gifts for the family, household goods, food and more.

The donators, which included people from Colorado, Wyoming, Iowa, Minnesota, Texas and California, provided nearly everything on the family’s wish list. Among many other gifts, each child received a gift card to their favorite fast food restaurant or coffee shop, and the family received a new washer and dryer, a Kitchenaid mixer and a Costco membership.

Local businesses such as 5281 Steak, Salad, Seafood, West Hill Grill, Ground Up Coffee Café, Papa Murphy’s, Old Chicago, Texas Roadhouse, Honeybaked Ham, Starbucks, The Ogden Theatre, Salon sei Bella, Trillium Skin Care and Rogue Beauty all donated items.

Ralph Schomp Honda offered to fix the family car for free and provided a rental for the Christmas weekend. To the Haviland family, this was perhaps the biggest shock of all.

“I don’t know what she did, but Schomp Honda came to us and said they would fix it,” said Rich, Ellen’s husband.

“They fixed the car for free,” he added. “We were like, ‘Wow.’”

And ended with a realization

For the Haviland family, Hulme’s generosity meant everything. Saturday’s gift donation brought tears, hugs and handshakes for all those involved.

“It feels really good. She’s very generous for helping us out,” Tristen said.

But for those who volunteered their time, the project may have meant even more.

Hulme’s neighbor and friend Anjelica Burry said it was a wakeup call. She frequently hears of people living elsewhere who need a helping hand, “not really realizing that we have a lot of people in our community.”

“(The Haviland family is) right down the street from us, and we didn’t even know it,” Burry added. “That’s what’s so touching. … It’s beyond words.”

Hulme agreed, saying the project inspired the true spirit of Christmas – a desire to join hands and support neighbors.

Despite their efforts, the gift givers quickly detracted from their role in the affair.

“It’s not about any of us,” Burry said. “It’s about the community. It’s about the love. … It’s about being humans. It’s about helping each other out regardless.”

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.