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It’s not too late to play Santa Claus for needy children

Stowe Academy Chicago staff members MaritzVelez clerk Assistant Principal Jackie Griffiths right participate Sun-Times SeasSharing Friday December 14 2012. I

Stowe Academy Chicago staff members Maritza Velez, clerk, and Assistant Principal Jackie Griffiths, at right, participate in the Sun-Times Season of Sharing on Friday, December 14, 2012. I Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 18, 2013 6:13AM

Chicago Sun-Times readers saved Christmas this year at H.B. Stowe Fine & Performing Arts Academy in Humboldt Park — sort of.

The school at 3444 W. Wabansia had been a participant in the Sun-Times Season of Sharing for as long as school clerk Maritza Velez can remember, and she’s been there 22 years. But this year, they reached out too late, failing to make the cutoff.

“We were told we might not get in, and were disappointed for the children, but just very thankful to even be considered,” said Assistant Principal Jackie Griffiths.

When November came and went, and with December ticking away, the school — where students are 99 percent low-income — accepted it would have to announce there’d be no Christmas gifts this year. But that’s when Sun-Times readers stepped in.

Readers responded so overwhelmingly to this year’s program — and so quickly — that by last week, almost all of the 10,332 letters initially received had been picked up.

So we called Stowe with good news: Get your letters in!

“It’s been wonderful. Our principal dropped the letters off Friday, and phones started ringing even before she got home,” said Griffiths. “I’ve had people calling and emailing, when they couldn’t read the child’s writing, or couldn’t find the gift.”

Stowe forwarded 306 letters from preschoolers through third-graders, and is among dozens of city schools, social service agencies, homeless shelters and other nonprofits sending nearly 11,000 needy children’s letters this year.

Generous readers responded to them, even saving the day for one additional school — Nixon Elementary, at 2121 N. Keeler, which also got to send in 201 last-minute letters.

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