TICONDEROGA - Christmas comes early to Helen Gibbs every year.
Gibbs is the long-time head of the Tiny Tim Christmas Wish program in Ticonderoga, which provides gifts to needy children in the Ti-Putnam-Hague area.
"This is my Christmas," Gibbs said as she sorted through hundreds of gifts last week. "Since Ken (her husband) died, this is the way I celebrate Christmas. I'll go to my daughter-in-law's for Christmas dinner and I'll enjoy it, but this is my Christmas."
Gibbs has been part of the Tiny Tim program for 18 years. Every year is special because of the people who are helped, she said.
"This year we're helping a family whose mother just had surgery to remove a tumor," Gibbs said. "The mother-in-law came to stay with them to help out and she was just diagnosed with cancer. It's a family that needs help. It's wonderful we can provide it."
Then there was the year Gibbs was shopping in a local store when she was approached by a small girl.
"She said, 'I know you'," Gibbs recalled. "I assured her she didn't, but she said, 'You're the lady who helps Santa Claus.' It brought tears to my eyes."
Gibbs has a lot of stories like that.
The Tiny Tim program started in 1980 when a group of Ticonderoga Central School teachers realized the need. The program grew to the point the teachers could no longer handle the demand.
"In January of 1989 there was an article in the Times of Ti that the program was disbanding," Gibbs recalled. "They just couldn't do it any more; it had gotten too expensive.
"It really bothered me when I thought about it, that there were so many kids who needed things," she continued. "I made a call to see if I could help. This is my 18th Christmas."