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  • Outdoor Christmas lights on homes evolved from decorating the traditional Christmas tree and house with candles during the Christmas season. Lighting the tree with small candles dates back to the 17th century and originated in Germany before spreading to Eastern Europe.
  • That big, jolly man in the red suit with a white beard didn’t always look that way. Prior to 1931, Santa was depicted as everything from a tall gaunt man to a spooky-looking elf. He has donned a bishop's robe and a Norse huntsman's animal skin. When Civil War cartoonist Thomas Nast drew Santa Claus for Harper's Weekly in 1862, Santa was a small elflike figure who supported the Union. Nast continued to draw Santa for 30 years, changing the color of his coat from tan to the red he’s known for today.
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  We allow people to walk around our yard to see our display and take pictures.  Last night we had over 400 people.   Today my called called me and told me there was someone here asking if we found money in the yard.  She said she put money in the donation box last night, and today she found out she lost $450.00, all her Christmas money for her 7 kids.   My wife said she was crying.  I called her, and she was upset and crying.   I have to take her at her word that she is telling the truth.   We do collect money for the secret Santa for the kids of our town, but do I take the money from that and give it to her?   I know it is not my fault, but I feel responsible.    

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If you aren't collecting for a specific charity, then donating some of it to her would be a valid donation. It certainly isn't your fault, but you wouldn't be human if you didn't feel bad for her! I hope things work out for her, and for your peace of mind.

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I don't know if I should weigh in on this or not. I have a natural suspicion of strangers who ask for money, especially when the request is accompanied by a specific story of a hardship. I often take lunch from my office, and then park my truck under the shade trees in the nearby mall parking lot, eat my food and listen to talk radio. It's a nice way to get out of the office for a few minutes and relax. I've been doing this for years, and over that time, I've been approached several times by panhandlers. The first couple of times it happened, I was a sympathetic, but now I'm more cynical, and here is why:

  • There are three recurring panhandlers who work the parking lot. The first is a well-dressed man in his mid-50s. He tells the story that he is a pastor who has driven four hours from Florida to visit his sick mother in the nursing home, but that she died last night before he could arrive. He needs to go back to Florida and pick up his wife to come back and make funeral arrangements, but that when he went to the gas station, he found his bank account had been overdrawn by drug addicted daughter. He then produces an ATM receipt showing a negative balance on a checking account. The receipt is always dated for that day. This man has approached me about six or seven times over the past three years with this same story.
  • The second guy drives around the parking lots and stops and approaches people while his family (wife and two high-school aged sons) remains in the car. He tells a story about how they are living out of the car, because he lost his job three months ago from a local factory that has, in fact, been closed for five years. They are looking for hotel money. I've seen this guy four times in the past year.
  • The final recurring character is a woman who works the parking lot on either extremely hot or cold days, claiming that her car has run out of gas, and that she is trying to get home to a town about 30 miles away, but now her children are stuck in a hot/cold car, which is on the other side of whatever building she is in front of. I've encountered this woman three or four times over the past two years.

All of these stories are, at first glance, sympathetic, but I have heard each of them many times and obviously don't believe them. I'm polite, but never offer any money to these folks.

 

I'm not going to offer an opinion about what you should do in this specific situation, but do keep in mind that there are people who will take advantage of others, and a large display area with lots of traffic and is known to be collecting donations might appear to be an easy mark for certain folks. Either way, do what you think is right.

Edited by CLashley

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I agree with Cameron, First off I would not think that a family of that size with limited money would be making a donation. Also I would think that the type of people that visit my display are good people that have the Christmas spirit. If they were to find that kind of money they would have knocked on your door.

 

If I had this happen I would get the ladies Drivers license and phone numbers then check with the local police to see if she has had any problems in the past. I know it sounds cruel but you have to protect your self. If she is on the up and up she will not have a problem if you are trying to help her.

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Thank you for all of your thoughts.  I agree with everything that was said.    I was also outside the whole time playing Santa (over 5 hrs.)     Part of me does not believe her, but the part that heard her crying is the part pulling on me.

   We raise money for 2 charities.     Secret Santa for the kids of our town, and my Relay for Life cancer team.    I was thinking of giving her last nights donations $270.00.      It would fall under the Secret Santa donations, but I know the people running it could really use the money.    

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I have seen many situations where the person is basically panhandling for a living. telling the sob story, and others who are probably really being truthful. There is very little way to tell either way for me. emotion especially with females and kids being involved tugs at my heart. Each time, i make a judgement call there and at that moment. Each person has a different problem. Sometimes, if they say they are hungry. Then I might offer to bring them Taco Bell or something, instead of cash. I have put 20 in someone's gas tank before, I have even given cash at times.. Some people even use their kids to get money.. I paid for a room for a night.. but another I gave cash.. My point is, regardless of the situation, each one is different. Sometimes if they are being real getting the solution might be food instead of money.. Look at this way, if you do the right thing you feel in your heart.. even if the other person is wrong in what they do.. does that make you wrong for trying to help? There will always be people who want the easy way out, then others who just need help getting out.. i have been on both sides as the person giving, and the person asking.. its humiliating but sometimes you have to swallow that pride and ask for help.. I hope my input is helpful..    

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I'll add my cautionary tale.

My wife and I were leaving a bowling alley and saw a woman crying in her car with her small child. She said she needed $50 for gas to get home for the holidays. At first I was suspicious, but the tears really got to me. She genuinely seemed in trouble. All I had was $20 on me, so my wife and I gave it to her. The instant she took the money, the tears instantly vanished, she had a huge smile on her face (the kind that comes from fooling someone) and peeled out of the parking lot as fast as she could. My wife and I just looked at each other and agreed we'd been had.

 

I don't know if this woman is lying or not. Not to be cruel, but I wouldn't give her any money. It sounds like a con to me. There are just little pieces that don't add up and that usually means it's a scam. Why is she carrying that much cash around at night if she's not going shopping? Why is she waiting until right before Christmas to do all of the Christmas shopping for her whole family? Even if she were making a small donation to your charities, how could all that cash fall out and no one notice? Just doesn't add up to me.

 

If she's honest and truly lost her money, while I'm sad for her, she just as easily could have lost the cash at a mall or in a parking lot. The mall wouldn't be responsible for her loss, and neither are you just because she happened to lose it at your display.

 

I've been taken several times by people who had very convincing stories and tears. I would hate to have your deserving charities miss out if this were a scam.

 

But of course, the decision is yours and you must do what you feel is right.

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I had a few a month ago come crying to me on my front long asking for $60 for a train ticket to see her mom who was dying, when I told I didn't have it on me, her whole tune changed and she smiled and walked away.  Be careful.

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Once again, thanks for all your thoughts.I have a Face Book page I have set up for my display and posted earlier asking if anyone found it.  Other people shared it.  Tonight they came down and said that they had a family member help them out, so they do not need the money I offered.     

    I really don't know if it was a scam or not.  Part of me says yes, and the Face Book post scared them away?

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Well the good news is that the situation has resolved itself. If she was being honest, then I'm glad she received the help she needed, and you still get to contribute all of the money you've collected to your charities.  :)

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Once again, thanks for all your thoughts.I have a Face Book page I have set up for my display and posted earlier asking if anyone found it.  Other people shared it.  Tonight they came down and said that they had a family member help them out, so they do not need the money I offered.     

    I really don't know if it was a scam or not.  Part of me says yes, and the Face Book post scared them away?

 

I prefer to believe the best about people until given a reason that I shouldn't. I have to admit, carrying around your entire savings at a light show with no intention of spending it that night seems a bit odd though. In the end, I am glad it has all worked itself out, and you can feel good knowing you played a small part in a positive outcome.

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Unfortunately, the cons have ruined it for the truly needy. This supposed hardship is clearly the work of a slick maneuvering con artist. Your donors that night were intending to donate to a charity and not to a suspected con, so I am glad it all worked out.

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Our second ot third day we were open a woman said she fell and broke her glasses and was going to sue if we didn't buy her new ones. We got her information but 2 days later she was back with the same exact glasses on that she broke?? So I checked the security cameras and they were the same and when we went to her eye Dr. they wanted nearly $1200 for a new pair. I called her and told her we would pay to have them fixed but I would need to take them in so she would have to drop them off. NOTHING for about a month then a supposed lawyer called with a threat. I said I had no idea what he was talking about because there wasn't an issue. Never heard another thing of course our lawyer was involved at that point but her's wouldn't leave any usefull info other than his number and to say he was from out of state where they spend the winter

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My favorite story was of a panhandler at my local grocery store.  He was at the entrance asking for a couple of bucks to buy bread & bologna.  I refused.  When I got into the checkout line, there he was in front of me with a quart of beer and holding some dollar bills.  All of the sudden, this little old lady shoved me aside, snatched the dollar bills out the mans hand, and said loudly "You said this was for bread & bologna, you liar!"  Everyone in line applauded.

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The funny part of this is that I have been known to give a couple of bucks to a wino if he tells me that he is thirsty and wants a drink. I'll respect some honesty.

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I don't know if I should weigh in on this or not. I have a natural suspicion of strangers who ask for money, especially when the request is accompanied by a specific story of a hardship.

 

All of these stories are, at first glance, sympathetic, but I have heard each of them many times and obviously don't believe them. I'm polite, but never offer any money to these folks.

 

I share your suspicion.  Twice I've had panhandlers tell me the same story that they told me on a previous occasion.  The answer is to simply say, "You told me the same story last time!"  I did this both times.  The first guy immediately turned and walked away.  The second was a woman who immediately made up another story about having 4 kids.  The first time I saw her panhandling at the grocery store.  I saw a fancy new pickup truck let her out I assume to "work the lot" while it waited on the far side.

 

It is offensive to be lied to.  It's even more offensive to know that the panhandler doesn't even remember the people he or she lies to.

 

Our second ot third day we were open a woman said she fell and broke her glasses and was going to sue if we didn't buy her new ones. We got her information but 2 days later she was back with the same exact glasses on that she broke?? So I checked the security cameras and they were the same and when we went to her eye Dr. they wanted nearly $1200 for a new pair. I called her and told her we would pay to have them fixed but I would need to take them in so she would have to drop them off. NOTHING for about a month then a supposed lawyer called with a threat. I said I had no idea what he was talking about because there wasn't an issue. Never heard another thing of course our lawyer was involved at that point but her's wouldn't leave any usefull info other than his number and to say he was from out of state where they spend the winter

 

You can be sure that was a scam.  Lawyers can only practice in the state(s) they are licensed in.  If the lawyer was really from "out of state" then it is very unlikely that he is licensed in your state.

 

The funny part of this is that I have been known to give a couple of bucks to a wino if he tells me that he is thirsty and wants a drink. I'll respect some honesty.

 

A saw a panhandler once that was holding a sign that said, "Why lie?  Need a beer!"

 

TED

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Unfortunately, the cons have ruined it for the truly needy.

 

You are right.  I think the best answer is to donate money to the Salvation Army or other groups that help the homeless.  This way the money will go to people who are actually in need.

 

Yeah, they are so many con artists, I wouldn't even want people walking around in my yard, everyone wants to sue!

 

Sadly, that is the most unfortunate effect of the con artists.

 

TED

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Here is a scary thought for you ;), my donation box does not have a lock.

 

We raise anywhere from $20 - $400 per night and each night there is always something. 

 

I did a show at my home in 2007 and then again this Christmas. Both seasons, there was one day where we received absolutely nothing.

 

Now statistically, this is weird…even on our lowest attendance days we receive something.

 

My logic is pretty simple, somebody needed that money. I don't know why and I don't really need to know. But somebody was desperate enough during the holiday season to steal from a Christmas charity. My only prayer for them is that the money helped ease their stresses and helped where it could.

 

Maybe it wasn't the charity I intended the money for, but I pray it helped whoever it was that took it.

 

Just my thoughts ;)

Edited by JHolmes

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Unfortunately, the cons have ruined it for the truly needy. This supposed hardship is clearly the work of a slick maneuvering con artist. 

 

Our local community has an organization that handles requests for assitance from churches (or other smaller organizations).  If we get a phone call for  help, we direct them to this group.  That group can then act as a clearing house for the specific need(s).  A number of churches in our town specialize in  particular areas.  My church has a clothing ministry.  Another does personal care products, another furniture, another appliances, another housing needs, etc. It prevents the con artist from hitting up every church or organization for money with the same story, again and again.  When a need is real, we get information from the parent group concerning the individual or family and an appointment is set up to fill the request.  It certainly has cut down on the number of unsolicited calls, as the con artists will have usually been directed to the  main groups a number of times before they get to our number in the phone book.(sometimes it's good not to be first alphabetically).   

 

People with real needs are then served with the limited resources that are available.

 

Greg 

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I have a large parking lot across from my display where cars can park and watch the display.

Twice over the years I have had to run off pan handlers going from car to car asking for money to help pay for the display or electric bill.

I always try to monitor the security cameras for anyone roaming around the lot.

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