JFCS Staff, Holiday Gift Giving Coordinator
I’ve coordinated the HGG program since 2016 and work with a core group of volunteers that have joined me each year. This program is close to my heart for so many reasons. We adopted my son from JFCS and there was a time that he benefitted from the Holiday program. To see the generosity of our community warms my heart. I’ve built relationships with the volunteers and donors, and that feeling of joy you get when you know you have done something good that helps people is indescribable. That is who I am, completely. That is what I do best.
Volunteer, Holiday Gift Giving Chair
I do this because I love it! My goal is to leave no child behind and to make sure each one gets everything they want because every child deserves to have a present to open on Christmas! It is tiring and hard, and many a night I am out shopping with my girls (volunteers) and away from my family. But, in the end, it is all worth it when I see the smiles on the children’s faces and know that I was a part of that.
JFCS Staff, Family Support Counselor
This is a story of a Christmas miracle for a young 15-year-old freshman named Leangela Wilkerson. She is very shy and keeps to herself, and it takes time for her to open up to people. All she wanted for Christmas this year was to be home with her mother and siblings. When she found out she was going to get her wish she was so excited. The staff felt this would be a wonderful time to give some Christmas magic to this family. We asked Leangela what she would like to help make her room feel like a safe space and when she responded that she needed a space that felt like her own, we gave her bedding of her choice and decorations for the room she is sharing with her two younger sisters. We also provided bedding for everyone else in the home as well and were able to obtain a deep freezer to help them with food storage. But Leangela and her family got more than material things this holiday season. She is back in a loving and stable home this year and all they wanted, as a family, was to spend the holidays together. I was happy to help make their dream a reality.
Chi, Bo, and Viktoria Mariyanovich
CHI: I started supporting the JFCS Holiday Gift Giving program because Donna asked me to. And what I found is how rewarding it can be. Because of this, I have invited my friends to participate… and so has my husband, Bo. In 2021, we were able to assist JFCS with filling wish lists for over 150 children! When I was a child I remember taping notebook paper together in a large rectangle shape. Then taping that large sheet onto our apartment wall. With a box of crayons, I’d draw a Christmas tree, ornaments, and presents under it. My parents couldn’t afford presents or a tree growing up, so that was my personalize tree. Therefore I’m touched by this program.
BO: It’s time to give. It’s time to do the right thing…. whatever the reason, the motivation, or the drive… all of us that can help need to. My wife and I took on 20, my company took at least that many. It’s so simple to do. Fulfill a child’s wishlist for Christmas – for foster kids that have no means and no way to get these items. A small act of generosity can change a child’s life forever. You could be responsible for helping one of these kids be the next Picasso or Mozart; the next Jordan or Michael Phelps; the person who will cure cancer. That’s why we do it. That’s why we support JFCS.
Ben and Kim Smith (of blessed memory)
First Time Donors
BEN: This morning I took the gifts over to the Jewish Family & Community Services that we at Empire Auto Sales and Service, along with my wife, Kim McManus Smith, and our family sponsored this Christmas. I want to thank my good friends Chi and Bo for inviting us to be a part of this wonderful program. You know, you think that your life is tough and then you read a 13 year old’s Christmas list where he is asking for bath towels, socks and underwear and then your life doesn’t seem so bad at all.
♥ NOTE FROM JFCS: Ben’s wife, Kim, passed away just four days after he wrote this. We honor her memory.