Bush, Clinton, Volunteers Get Into the Spirit : Holidays: The President phoned military personnel around the world while the President-elect and lesser-known Santas gave gifts to families in need.

From Times Wire Services

Strangers gave away presents and cash for Christmas, while storm victims got helping hands.

And an outgoing President called servicemen and women around the globe while the incoming President spent a quiet Arkansas Christmas with his family.

In Huntington, W. Va., Dennis and Robin Shank and their three sons faced a gloomy Christmas without gifts because he lost his job earlier this year. Then a man they didn't know, and still don't know, appeared at their door with gifts.

"He said he and his wife had asked their children what they wanted for Christmas, and they said they didn't want anything but to help someone else," Robin Shank said.

The family of Tom Hacha, 35, an unemployed meat-cutter in Oxford, Mich., also expected a bleak holiday--until a stranger showed up at their door with 24 bags of groceries and four huge bags of wrapped toys.

"He said to me: 'Santa's alive," Hacha recalled. "The only thing I ask of you is to pass the word that Santa is alive."

Volunteer groups have been placing everything from dishes and furniture to personal gifts under Christmas trees in Mississippi's Rankin County, where 10 people were killed in tornadoes on Nov. 21. Five people died elsewhere in the state.

"I want these people to know I'm really grateful," said Sherrie Flynn, whose house in Florence, Miss., was one of 200 that were destroyed.

Eight-year-old Lora Smith didn't think Santa Claus could find her and her 6-year-old sister, Laci, after her family's house burned down and they were forced to spend Christmas Eve in a motel in Franklin, Tenn.

But the Williamson County Rescue Squad collected more than $800 for gifts, clothing and other help for the family.

"We're just trying to ride it through this year," said Mildred Blankenship, the girls' mother. "But Santa came to see them, and they were very happy."

Following an annual Christmas custom, President Bush telephoned American military people around the world as he celebrated the holiday with his family at Camp David, Md.

He and his wife, Barbara, their five children and 12 grandchildren spent Christmas morning opening presents and playing volleyball at the Catoctin Mountain presidential retreat. The few outsiders present included National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and Rep. G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery (D-Miss.), a close friend.

In Little Rock, Ark., President-elect Bill Clinton relaxed with his family, exchanging gifts and enjoying an early Christmas dinner after completing the arduous task of naming his Cabinet.

Clinton had dinner with his wife, Hillary, and daughter, Chelsea, about noon at the governor's mansion.

Joining them was a small group of family friends and the President-elect's brother, Roger.

After announcing his Cabinet members and other appointments, Clinton raced out Thursday afternoon for his first Christmas shopping trip. Eating pizza on the run, he stopped at a jewelry store, bookstore and sports clothing store.

Clinton refused to disclose what he had purchased, saying it would ruin the surprise. Clinton aides said they did not know what gifts the family exchanged Christmas morning.

Aides said the Clintons continued their Christmas tradition of helping two families in need each year at this time.

They said the father of one family went to the mansion Christmas Eve to collect gifts of toys, clothing and food, while aides took similar presents to the other family.

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