Walt Meder knew he was on to something.
The 90-year-old Arlington Heights resident spurred a Daily Herald fundraising drive that has resulted in readers donating $10,182 in just the first week to buy gifts for children at a Palatine-based emergency shelter at the holidays. The total includes Meder's initial donation.
"I hope they get plenty," Meder said. "You'd be surprised: People are pretty good if they just get the chance."
Readers can make tax-deductible donations through Dec. 17 to the Hope for the Holidays campaign inspired by Meder.
Funds will be used to buy gifts for children served by WINGS, a nonprofit agency that provides emergency shelter, temporary housing, education and job help for suburban women and their children.
So far, 183 families and individuals from around the suburbs have donated to Hope for the Holidays. Praise of Meder's generosity is a common theme among the letters that accompany the donations.
"What a wonderful soul you must be," one donor wrote in a note addressed to Meder. "Because of people like you, eyes light up with happiness and hearts sing with joy."
Meder approached the Daily Herald about starting the campaign and gave the initial donation. The idea arose from small kindnesses he was shown as a youngster growing up during the Depression, when he had to drop out of school and work to help support his German immigrant parents.
WINGS officials said the money donated will be used for a variety of gifts ranging from toys to more practical items for older children. The agency was started for victims of domestic violence, but agency officials said there are "always more kids than adults." At any given time, the agency is helping 80 to 100 families.
By accepting donations of money instead of toys, the Daily Herald will be able to purchase specific gifts on the WINGS list. The Daily Herald will print a special thank-you ad featuring the names of donors, as well as a list of the gifts purchased.
To donate, send tax-deductible checks by Dec. 17 made out to WINGS -- Daily Herald Hope for the Holidays, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006-0280.