While planning her son's 10th birthday party, Patti Otto had a suggestion. Instead of getting more gifts when her son, Payton, had plenty, maybe he could ask for Christmas Store donations.

Payton liked the idea and really pushed it, said his father, Dr. John Otto.

"We always contributed to the store and Charles (Hollingsworth, chairman) is a friend of ours so Patti made the suggestion," John Otto said.

Payton had a party at Star Skate and his mother made a box to hold contributions. When his guests arrived, all from All Saints Catholic School, they and their parents dropped cash or checks into the box. They raised $395 and Payton took $5 of his own money to make it an even $400. But before the party was over, he raised $469 to donate.

"It was such a happy time, too," John Otto said. "They had a lot of fun and they raised the money. He has a really good heart and I'm very proud of him."

John Otto visited with a friend last week, he said, and they were talking about funding for United Way and other charities.

"These are the types of things that make a difference," Otto said. "It was really neat."

And Payton's donation is needed, according to Hollingsworth. With shopping to begin at the store next week, organizers are a little worried because donations are down this year.

"I went to the post office today and there were just four envelopes," he said Monday. "Usually there are at least 20 a day."

"Hopefully, the response to our letter writing campaign has been delayed as a result of the Thanksgiving holidays and not because cash donations will end up being down for the year but as our collected funds stand today, we are substantially down in cash donations from previous years," Hollingsworth said.

The Christmas store, now more than 40 years-old provides gifts, food, clothing and household goods for those families in the county who need a little boost.

Although donations are down, the number of families requesting help hasn't risen too significantly in Cleveland County. Organizers expected to get slammed with families this year because of the economy, Hollingsworth said, "but we didn't. Our numbers are solid."

No families who qualified for the store will be turned away empty handed, Hollingsworth said.

Money is what is needed the most at this time, Hollingsworth said.

"It is certainly not too late to make a donation and those wanting to do so may mail them to PO Box 256, Norman, OK 73070," Hollingsworth said. "Our organization is recognized as a 501 (c) (3) entity by the Internal Revenue Service."

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