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A Holiday Tradition of Helping Others

Perhaps the most vivid memory of Christmases past for the Clitheroe family is one that is also bittersweet: the annual “jug party,” at which the entire family would empty their pockets of spare change into a large jar, thereby providing the clan’s six children with the only spending money they would have for Christmas gifts.

Chip Clitheroe, 39, remembers the scrimping that went on, growing up in a family supported only by his father’s modest schoolteacher salary. But he also remembers his parents’ efforts to make Christmas a special time and is using those memories, including that of the jug party, to help those less fortunate.

This year when the Clitheroes gathered recently for the annual party, their thoughts were focused on another family--the one they had “adopted” through a program run by the charity Share Our Selves.

The Clitheroes have been a part of the adopt-a-family program since 1985, when Chip Clitheroe first became acquainted with SOS founder Jean Forbath through his Rotary Club.

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Each year since, the Clitheroe clan has been able to amass hundreds of dollars in spare change, saved throughout the year, to provide food and gifts for an adopted family.

Participants are provided first names and ages of members of their adoptive families and are asked to provide at least two new gifts for children--an item of clothing and a toy--as well as the makings for a Christmas dinner.

Adopting and adoptive families, however, remain anonymous to each other, and the Clitheroes would have it no other way.

“I don’t think I would want to meet them. It’s a matter of pride,” Chip said.

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“And for the kids, Christmas is still a magical time,” added his wife, Kerry. “It would lose some of that if they knew where their toys came from.”

The Clitheroes are not sure just from whence their family charity sprang. Chip remembers that he and his brothers used to reassemble old bicycle parts into bright, gleaming machines that--along with food and clothing--the family would take to the poor in Tecate, Mexico.

“I think we grew up realizing that no matter what position you’re in or how badly off you think you are, there’s always someone in worse shape than you,” added brother Jeff, 37.

Polly Clitheroe, 66, a retired library clerk, believes that she and her late husband, Chuck, who was a physical education teacher and football coach for the Probation Department at Juvenile Hall, instilled in their children a love of family and of people.

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That love was evident at their boisterous jug party this year. After several hours of counting nickels, dimes, quarters and pennies, the proud family--Chip and Kerry of Costa Mesa; brother Jeff and his wife, Sherry, 28, also of Costa Mesa; brother Lynn, 38, of Anaheim, and mother Polly, who lives in Anaheim--announced the take: a grand total of $394.97.

“This really offsets some of the commercialism that has become so much a part of Christmas,” Chip said. “We will go shopping and know that our gifts will go to a family that really needs them.”

Chip Clitheroe

Occupation: Doctoral student at UCI and part-time college lecturer

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Kerry Clitheroe

Occupation: Administrator of alternative education programs, Huntington Beach Union High School District

Organization: Share Our Selves adopt-a-family program

Address: 1550 Superior Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92627. (714) 642-3451

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