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Good deeds are in good supply among Kansans

So perhaps you think giving hearts are in short supply this Christmas season, that the economy has put a Grinch lock on all of us. National reports do show that individual giving to nonprofit organizations is down about 9 percent this year.

And, yes, more than 1,000 toys were stolen last weekend from Wichita's Toys for Tots warehouse.

But let's take a closer look. There are still plenty of warm hearts out there, folks who are doing good deeds — giving of their time and resources or just plain being nice.

Even before daybreak last Monday, the Marine Corps was getting calls about replacing the stolen toys. By the end of the day, the Marines had enough toys to not only fill this year's needs but jump-start next year's drive.

And then there are the Hoisington city officials, who recently changed their employee sick-leave policy to accommodate a hurting family.

Does that surprise you? Probably — if you're listening to the loudest voices. Cynicism's whine and snarl often drowns out the quiet efforts of so many.

But you don't have to turn on the Hallmark Channel to catch the Christmas spirit.

Accompanying this story are real tales of open hearts that have encouraged others.

And to help show how far the giving spirit reaches, the Greteman Group, a Wichita advertising agency, recently created a Web site — dothedeed.org — so anyone can share their stories of either helping or receiving. Inspiring messages. Check it out.

Still not convinced? Then ask Shaun Elmore. At one time, he wasn't sold.

Then on Nov. 29, Elmore's 6-year-old son, Alex, was seriously injured in their hometown of Hoisington. A vehicle struck Alex while he was standing on a sidewalk.

Alex was flown to Wesley Medical Center. Painful and difficult hours, days and weeks have followed. More are ahead.

But Elmore has also seen an outpouring of support and prayer from individuals and churches in Hoisington, Great Bend and even across the nation.

"With the way the world is," Elmore said, "I didn't know there were that many people left in the world who cared.

"I didn't realize how many friends I have and how much they cared about Alex and our family. But it's also from strangers, people I didn't even know."

At least one church has sent financial support to the Ronald McDonald House, which is providing housing for Shaun and Alex's mom, Breauna Elmore, so they can remain with their son nearly 24/7.

"The biggest thing has been the prayers," said Elmore, who is a lineman for Hoisington's municipal utilities. "I really believe that praying and keeping faith in God — as hard as it is sometimes — is important."

But it doesn't stop there.

Hoisington's policy had stated that employees could use only 40 hours of their paid sick leave each year for family medical situations.

Elmore had used up 35 of those 40 hours earlier this year. But after Alex was hurt, city officials rewrote the policy, allowing any employee to be paid for all accrued sick-leave time up to 12 weeks.

Hoisington's City Council gave its final approval on Friday.

"We care about our employees," city manager Jonathan Mitchell said. "Shaun is a champion, and he's going through a difficult situation right now."

After using those 12 weeks, Elmore said he'll rely on vacation time so he can stay with his son.

It was an encouraging sign that Alex was moved from the pediatric intensive care unit last week to a private room, but a gut-wrenching and long road remains.

Alex has already spent his 6th birthday in the hospital, and that's where he'll be for Christmas.

In the meantime, the Elmores can lean on the encouragement that comes from those prayers, hugs and financial gifts.

"People are just giving," Elmore said.

But before someone can give, someone has to be willing to receive.

Elmore said in the past his pride had kept him from receiving.

"It's hard to choke down," he said. "It's a lot easier to give, and I've given.

"But if someone is going to offer you something when you need it, receive it. That's just humanity."

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