A Yuletide Gift of Kindness

Seventy-five years later, Ted Gup learns the astonishing secret about his grandfather’s generosity during the Great Depression

In 2008, Ted Gup was handed a battered suitcase by his mother; it contained conceled checks and old letters addressed to "B. Virdot". Thus began a search for the stories behind the letters. (Bradley E. Clift)
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Have you got any ladies in your family could give me some old clothes.

We all took a cold by not having anything warm to wear—it is the children's first cold & my first in ten years. So you can imagine our circumstances.

My husband is a good farmer but we have always rented & that keeps us poor. When we were making good money he bought his machinery & paid for them, so we never wasted anything. He is only 32 & never had anyone to give him a help in starting....

& oh my I know what it is to be hungry & cold. We suffered so last winter & this one is worst.

Please do help me! My husband don't know I am writing & I haven't even a stamp, but I am going to beg the mailman to post this for me.

No wonder Edith May complained of the cold: she was Jamaican. She had fallen in love with an African-American man with whom she had been a pen pal. They had gotten married and moved to a farm outside Canton. Edith May's "little girl" was named Felice. Today she well remembers her fourth birthday, two days before Christmas. When the chores were done, she and her family went into town. She remembers the Christmas lights. Her mother took her to a five-and-dime store and told her she could have either a doll or a wooden pony you pulled with a string. She chose the pony. It was the only present she remembers from those hard times, and only during our conversation last year did it occur to her that B. Virdot's check allowed her mother to buy such a gift. Today, Felice May Dunn lives in Carroll County, Ohio, and raises Welsh ponies—a love of hers since childhood.

Helen Palm was one of the youngest to appeal to B. Virdot. She wrote in pencil on a slip of paper.

When we went over at the neighbors to borrow the [news]paper I read your article. I am a girl of fourteen. I am writing this because I need clothing. And sometimes we run out of food.

My father does not want to ask for charity. But us children would like to have some clothing for Christmas. When he had a job us children used to have nice things.

I also have brothers and sisters.

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