Few people who have called the Seaford-area home for at least the past few years are not familiar with the name “Virginia Ginny Short”. The former Virginia Murphy, has a persona that is closely connected to everything that is good about society. If you are familiar with Ginny Short it is not because she has tried to make it that way. She works as tirelessly to shun the spotlight as she does in performing the very tasks that make her one of the community’s most charitable people.
For an extraordinary six decades, Ginny Short has been the backbone and voice behind the charitable organization known as “Seaford-Blades Associated Charities (SBAC).” The organization has its roots going back as far as 91 years. According to local historian Jim Bowden, it started in 1929 as “Seaford Associated Charities,” and was coordinated by the Red Cross.
Learning about this piece of local trivia, Short was caught by surprise. Her entire adult life has been spent in close association with SBAC and she had always believed that the organization started in 1940. Her recollection is extremely vivid because the forming of the charitable organization literally occurred as an active part of her childhood home life.
Ginny’s mother, Elizabeth Murphy, was a very active member of the Seaford Associated Charities when it formed in 1940. The first meeting of the organization was in May, 1940. In 1945, the group changed its name to Seaford-Blades Associated Charities as a means to include the Blades community in the service project.
As Short tells it, a Lions Club member, Truitt Tull, was troubled by the economic inequities that during the Christmas holidays resulted in many families doing without. Truitt brought the Lions Club together for a special meeting. A local community activist at the time, Anne Mae Marvel Collins, was tasked with mailing out information to help garner support from a host of other community service groups including the American Legion Auxiliary, Eastern Star, and the Seaford Fireman’s Auxiliary, Young Women’s Business and Professional Club, Kiwanis Club and the Masons.
“The group raised $100 and almost all the money went for shoes,” Short said. “That same year Anna Mae [Collins] worked for Sears, which at the time was located on the corner of High and Conwell streets. All the toys in the window were given to the SBAC. Unlike today, Christmas items were not on display until after Thanksgiving.”
As a child, Short learned how valuable SBAC was to the Seaford-area community and when she was a teenager, she took an active role, working with her mother to help organize donated items, including the job of sorting clothes. “This was something I saw my mother and the other ladies doing almost daily,” Short said. “When I got older there was no question that I would take on a job working with the charity. It wasn’t about whether I wanted to or not, it is what I did.”
She recalls in 1960, the first year she became an “investigator” for the charity, there were six investigators living in different areas of the Seaford and Blades school district. If a family needed help in their area, they would seek out what was needed, and then report back to a committee to determine what could be done.
Her first case was working with a family who had just moved down from New York. They were in need of almost everything as they moved into an unfurnished house with several children. Short was eager to find support for the family. She borrowed a truck from Tull Brothers and loaded up donated furnishings including a kitchen table and chairs and a burner donated by the high school FFA, which would serve as a stove.
“I will never forget that a while after we had delivered all of those furnishings I got a call from their landlord,” Short said. “The family had moved out of the house and what they didn’t steal they left in ruins. They had sawed the legs off the kitchen table and chairs and destroyed a storm door the landlord had just replaced. It was the first family I worked with, and it caused me from that point on to be a little more careful in making sure families were properly investigated before providing the goods that had been donated to our care.”
Short said in all her 60 years of volunteering with the SBAC, there has been one constant and that is the generosity of the community. Churches, schools and businesses took an active part of helping to provide the good that would help needy families through the tough times.
For a number of years a movie was shown in the school district. Children would bring in canned goods as the price of admission. The major area employer at the time, the DuPont Company also provided support. “DuPont employees made up large Christmas stockings for the children,” she said.
Short explained that in the late 1950s, during a simpler time, broken toys were taken to the Veterans Administration in Perry Point, Md. Lions Club members would take a truck load of broken toys, wagons and bicycles there and in exchange would get a load of repaired toys to be brought back. Nolan Darby, a town policeman, volunteered to do the repairs in order to save the trip. Later, the National Guard started collecting, repairing and repainting toys.
“Back in those days, children had very few toys and games,” Short said. “Most children were lucky to get an orange, apple, banana and maybe some nuts at Christmas.” She said the Lions Club members would deliver the food and toys at night. Included in the Christmas boxes each year was also a chicken. “John Moore was able to get them from Blades Poultry Farm in Bridgeville for 40 cents a pound,” she said.
The organizations’ main source for funds from the 1960s to the 1990s was through the Sussex County United Way. Each year SBAC would justify how money had been spent and share about activities requests for the following year. When the Ames department store closed its doors in the summer of 1983, SBAC received what amounted to several truckloads of the store’s leftover inventory.
One aspect of the charity organization that has not been so constant is a location to store donated goods and house the Christmas delivery operation each year. Short said there have been several locations. In the 1950s, Wright Robinson, then-publisher of the Seaford Leader newspaper, had the local newspaper plant located on Water Street. He donated to the organization the use of what was known as “the loft.” It was used to store donated clothes, furniture and household items. This lasted until about 1964 when he was forced to take back the loft when a fire insurance inspector warned that the stored items presented a fire hazard.
Operations were then set up temporarily in a building on Market Street in Blades that was rented for $30 per month. Eventually, donated goods would be stored in a building donated by the DuPont Company. In recent years the charity stopped handling items such as furniture, clothing and food, with the exception of its annual Christmas drive.
Since 2010, the SBAC has coordinated with the local branch of the church-based national Love, INC non-profit, located on King Street. Love, INC (In Christ’s Name) has taken over much of the ground work formerly handled by members of the SBAC. Short said when there is a need by local families, identified by Love, INC, SBAC will use its financial contributions to help for things including fuel, rent and other needs.
“We no longer make house calls to the families,” Short said. “Families now contact Love, INC and they find the help, including whatever we are financially able to do. Love, INC gets the names of the families from the schools for Christmas and throughout the year by other sources. We pack Christmas boxes for the children, food boxes and provide other help throughout the year for all the families in the Seaford School District. Love, INC works with all Sussex County areas utilizing different groups or organizations.
The annual Christmas drive, a local SBAC project, continues to be carried out by SBAC members. Donated toys and food are given to the families that have been supported throughout the year by Love, INC. Area support comes through each year from individuals and groups, including Dr. Michael Triglia and his Chiropractic Center in Seaford, which for well over 30 years has conducted an annual new toy drive to support the project.
Recently, the WBOC “Bless Our Children” annual drive provided SBAC with the funds needed to help in purchasing toys for children at Christmas. “We rely on donations given to the organization at Christmas and throughout the year. Without these donations, we could not continue to help families in need,” Short said.
This year, on Dec. 23, like so many years before, Ginny Short and her band of charitable local volunteers came together with members of Love, INC to hand out food and toys to those families in need. Volunteers from the SBAC’s founding organization, the Seaford Lion’s Club, were joined by volunteers from the Kiwanis Club. These volunteers included Lions Club members: Tom Spires, George Brautigam, Ed Cranston, Charles Michel, Carlyle Windley, Dave Parker, and Jim and Shirley Blackwell. Kiwanis volunteers were: Karl VanTine, Doug and Cyndie Figgs, Tom Collins, Susan Nancarrow, Richard Paden and Jim and Marsha Thompson.
The Seaford-Blades Associated Charities is a non-profit organization and its financial records are audited each year. Short, a former president of the organization, has now served as its treasurer for more than two decades. She is quick to point out that anyone giving financial support to the organization can be sure the money is well invested into the mission. “The only expenses we have are the annual franchise tax of $25 and whatever a roll of stamps cost. Everything else is donated including the time from our volunteers,” she said.
After 60 years, Short is considering stepping down from her duties with SBAC. However, this is a decision she is not taking lightly. “My mother assisted in the early years of the organization. I followed in my mother’s footsteps 60 years ago. Currently, five generations of the family are involved with the annual Christmas drive. I think it is time for new blood. But, it must be taken over by someone, or a group of people, who have the intention of carrying on our mission,” Short said.
Short shared a letter that was written to her over 25 years ago by a single mother who resided with her two children at the Chandler Heights apartment complex in Seaford. In the letter the mother explains that because finances were so desperate during that Christmas, she was forced to convince her two young children that there was no Santa Claus so they would not be disappointed on Christmas morning when the awoke to no toys under the tree. Having seen Santa throughout the holidays at “Santa’s House” in the Nylon Capital Shopping Center, the two children refused to accept their mother’s message.
Seaford-Blades Associated Charities under Short’s direction had chosen the family to receive toys and food for the Christmas holidays. Thanks to the charity’s support the children were not disappointed Christmas morning. The mother wrote that the generosity of SBAC not only allowed her children to continue believing there was a Santa Claus, but more than anything else renewed her faith in the kindness of others. “In a way, I now also believe there is a Santa Claus,” she wrote.
The letter has been a source of inspiration for Ginny Short each year since. “I read that letter every year and it gives me inspiration and confidence in the importance of what we are doing to help those in need,” she said.
SBAC is planning a meeting later in 2021 to discuss changes for the charity. The public will be invited. Meanwhile for Ginny Short the memories of her years with SBAC will remain some of her most treasured and most pride-filled.
“Serving those in need for 80 years without missing a year, as this organization has been able to do could have never been achieved without the support of many individuals, churches, clubs, organizations and groups. I dare say, very few cities or towns can boast of this achievement. Seaford can be proud of the people who have given and will continue giving to those less fortunate. We will always need help with donating toys, games and money. Thank you everyone for your willingness to make a better Christmas for families and your continued support throughout the year,” she said.