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D.C. employee delivers Christmas tree to snowbound family

Victoria Dawson thanks Toran Felder for making her family's Christmas a little brighter. At left is Dawson's daughter Ellie LeBlanc, 11.
Victoria Dawson thanks Toran Felder for making her family's Christmas a little brighter. At left is Dawson's daughter Ellie LeBlanc, 11. (By Bill O'Leary/the Washington Post)
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By Paul Schwartzman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 24, 2009

Until Sunday, Victoria Dawson's faith in the District government -- epic snowfall or not -- hovered somewhere around zilch.

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Then Toran Felder, a gust of holiday magic dressed as an employee of the D.C. Department of Public Works, rang her doorbell.

"Oh, my God," Dawson said, bursting into laughter. "Oh, my God."

The man from DPW was holding a Christmas tree.

Like a lot of people in the Washington region, Dawson, a public school teacher, awoke that morning on a street buried under a foot or two of snow. She spent hours outside with her two kids and their neighbors, kibitzing as they drank hot chocolate, ate brownies and shoveled.

After 14 years on Asbury Place NW, a one-block street in American University Park, the last thing she thought she'd ever see was a District snowplow. One year, the neighbors chipped in $20 each to hire their own. "We were trained by the Barry administration to expect nothing," Dawson said.

On Sunday, about 11 a.m., a rumble could be heard around the corner.

Could it be? Dawson ran toward the racket, jumping up and down, flailing her arms as if she were being rescued from a desert island.

Here came the snowplow driver, making the turn onto their street until . . . he got stuck.

Eventually, he backed out, promising that another plow would be along.

"I thought, 'Yeah, it's not possible to be lucky twice with the District,' " Dawson recalled, "not in one day."

Two hours later, a second plow arrived, only to get stuck as well, which is what brought Felder -- a burly, $54,000-a-year supervisor -- to the rescue, barking orders with the booming voice of a stage actor.

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