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Condensed from V.F.W. Magazine/Readers Digest


The letter that started a flood of generosity

Written by Bud Goodman

            Dolores Hallam telephoned home during her lunch hour one day last winter from the General Motors plant where she worked.  Her sister, with whom she and her two little daughters lived in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, said:  "Yes, there's a letter - from him."

            "Him" was Dolores' husband, Staff Sergeant Parker Hallam, who had gone to Korea with the Seventh Marine Transport Battalion nearly a year before.

            That evening Dolores, a pretty, slender woman of 26, opened the letter and read:

            "Looking at the pictures you sent of me of our two beautiful, happy babies reminds me that our outfit is going to give 400 kids around our area chow on Christmas and we're taking up a collection for clothes, food and toys.

            "These kids are just like our won, except that half of them will freeze or starve to death this winter, so here's what I'm asking you to do.  Get our minister or some civic organization to collect food, clothes, shoes and so on.  Anything to keep these kids going this winter.  I'm enclosing a note from our chaplain about what we're trying to do.  Try to get something in the paper if you can, honey, send it to Mom and Dad and have them do the same."

            Next day Dolores wrote to the Detroit Free Press, enclosing a copy of her husband's letter.  "I'm must a serviceman's wife with two youngsters, so there's not much I can do, and there's no one I know who can get anything done about it.  But if some of your readers could get the bug into their systems, who knows?"

            A reporter interviewed Dolores and his story appeared in the next Sunday's issue.  It included the chaplain's name, Lt. Robert W. Smith, and his Fleet Post Office address.

            Monday evening when Mrs. Hallam got home from work, she found several letters from readers saying they'd already mailed contributions.  Dolores Hallam sat up late replying to them.  On behalf of the Marines and the Korean children, she thanked the kind strangers and urged them to interest their friends.

            Each evening when she got home from work more letters were waiting, and she stayed up answering them until after midnight, night after night.

            Within two weeks packages and money orders began to arrive at the Marine base in Korea.  Chaplain Smith set aside a tent to hold the gifts, and kept a record of the money orders that poured in.  He bought 250 pounds of rice, and Sergeant Hallam and his fellow Marines took it to nearby refugee camps.

            More money poured in, and clothing, and toys.  The chaplain set up two more tents.  So he had a Quonset hut jammed full.  Still the gifts arrived in every mail.  So the Marines carried food and clothing to refugee camps and shacks in an ever-widening circle.

            In early February Chaplain Smith wrote to Dolores:  "We have now given about $35,000 worth of clothing to some 3500 people in two refugee camps and to 250 children in an orphanage in Seoul.  There are five to six tons of rice in storage and we have money for two more tons.  I think we soon shall have all the clothing we can distribute."

            Meanwhile, in shops, offices, churches and schools all over southern Michigan, men, women and children collected nickels and dimes and dollars.  The project snowballed until the chaplain wrote that their area was now well clothed and well fed; why not send any further contributions to similar groups working in other parts of South Korea?

            In the nine months after Dolores Hallam decided to do something for the "kids just like ours" in Korea, this is what happened:

            The Marines distributed $65,000 worth of clothing, chiefly to children and old people.

            A ton of rice went each week to two refugee camps and an orphanage.

            There was plenty of fuel for the stoves in two Old People's Homes.

            The Marines and the money from the Michigan finished the construction of three public schools of 200 seats each on which work had been stopped when funds ran out, and finished the building of a 400-seat church.

            The contributions also financed a new industry which made a whole village self-sustaining.  Chaplain Smith found that bags to transport and store the rice crop were always scarce, so with the money left after starvation had been routed the Marines built a bag factory.  In the town today at least one member of every family is making bags.  The payroll is nearly $20,000 a month.

            Having seen the campaign to a glorious conclusion in the best Marine tradition, Sergeant Hallam sent a letter to the Free Press, thanking it and the people of Michigan for their support.

            "The people at home," he wrote, "through their generosity have done more to thwart Communism in this area than all our bullets have done.  For Communism cannot live where love, kindness and generosity exist."




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