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Kirkwood youth shop for Neediest

Kirkwood High School Students Bennett Pruitt, (left) Emily Harrod and Gabby Coronado wrap Christmas presents after shopping at Target on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013 in Kirkwood Commons. They are members of Kirkwood Youth service, a school club sponsored by chemistry teacher Bob Becker that spent about $2000 on gifts for three families on the 100 Neediest Cases list. Pruitt hosted a wrapping pizza party at his home after shopping. Photo by Christian Gooden,

The St. Louis region gave more than $1.4 million to the annual 100 Neediest Cases campaign, the highest amount yet in the 91-year tradition of helping the area’s poorest.

Of the 100 cases highlighted in the Post-Dispatch during the recent holiday season, all were adopted, as well as 737 other cases that were part of the campaign.

Vanessa Wayne, director of the 100 Neediest Cases campaign, a collaboration of the United Way of Greater St. Louis and the Post-Dispatch, said the generosity of the region continues to exceed expectations.

“There are thousands of stories of how lives have been touched through this program,” Wayne said.

“A young working mother was able to purchase a crib and other necessities for her new child. A grandmother on a fixed income raising the children of her late daughter gave her grandchildren gifts for Christmas, which they wouldn’t have otherwise received.”

More than 70 agencies who work closely with the poor selected 13,127 cases for the 2013 campaign. Those cases represented 27,450 people from 231 ZIP codes and 191 municipalities.

All cases not adopted received a monetary donation from the $1,425,381 in cash contributions.

The minimum amount received for each case was $80 in 2013, compared with $68 the year before.

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The 2013 total is a $15,000 increase from the year before. The amount does not include the estimated value of gifts given to adopted families.

An adopted case often receives hundreds of dollars in donations, including clothes, toys, furniture, appliances and gift cards. Home repairs and paying delinquent utility bills and rent also are common gifts.

“Every year, the 100 Neediest Cases program receives thank you cards and letters from recipients expressing their gratitude for the help, but most just want to say thank you for letting them know there are people that care,” Wayne said.

The 100 Neediest Cases campaign dates to 1922, when civic leaders formed the Christmas Bureau. The Post-Dispatch has partnered with the program for more than five decades, renaming the campaign 100 Neediest Cases in 1954. Annual donations to the campaign swelled to $1.4 million, from $400 in its first year.

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