When Betsy Bradley pulled the play kitchen her nieces didn't want out of storage, she never imagined that it would birth a blossoming of generosity among her neighbors.

Bradley had purchased the kitchen a couple of years ago and it turned out her nieces already had something similar, so when she decided it was time to give it away, she posted a notice on the Stockton Springs Talks Facebook page saying she would like to give it to a local family that might need help with Christmas presents this year.

She quickly received several responses, leaving her feeling "so happy that I was able to help out a family but feeling sad that I couldn’t help out all of them," as she wrote in a later Facebook post. That gave her the idea to ask her neighbors if they would like to help the other families that had gotten in touch. Bradley changed the children's names and posted about their preferences and wishes for the holidays, and Stocktonians stepped up.

When The Republican Journal spoke with her Monday, Dec. 14, Bradley said over about a week, residents and members of the Community Builders group in town had helped 35 local children, not all of them from Stockton Springs. She added that, as much as the group would like to help everyone in need, they had taken on all they could for this season. She also mentioned that other area towns have programs to help families in need at this time of year.

"Our community has just been unbelievable," she said, with some donors asking if the parents of the children helped needed anything themselves. People have donated gift cards to Hannaford, Tozier's Market and Walmart, as well as buying particular gifts children said they wanted. Bradley, who is a selectman in town, said the need is particularly great this year. Some of the families helped, she said, would normally be among those helping others, if not for the effects of COVID-19.

Bradley has kept all names confidential, and has been setting up meetings at the Town Office parking lot or elsewhere to deliver gifts to recipients. The Town Office has served as a drop-off place for those contributing gifts.

She was delighted with the community's generous response. "The spirit of giving has just grown."