By Dawn M Chiossi
Christmas: The very word conjures up images of brightly wrapped gifts underneath a tree on a snowy morning. It conjures up smiles on children’s faces, and families enjoying each other.
But in today’s times, for so many out there in countless communities, being able to afford a Christmas like this may require a little help. And that’s where the Mount Olive Community Christmas Wish List Program comes in.
For over seven years, this great program has been spreading joy– not just with presents, but by making a difference in the lives of other people. The Christmas Wish List program is sponsored by the United Presbyterian Church in Flanders and embraces the true spirit of the holiday: Neighbors helping neighbors.
And they have never looked back.
According to United Presbyterian Church, Administrative Assistant, and 15 year Mount Olive Resident, Danielle Friedman, “The Christmas Wish List Program is an annual program that helps struggling local families grant the wish list of their children ages 0-17. I collect wish lists beginning around Halloween until Thanksgiving. I send out a sign up genius via my personal Facebook account and to the people who helped in previous years, and friends sign up and share. It is a community wide effort,” she enthuses.
Gifts will be dropped off at the United Presbyterian Church in Flanders located at 58 Drakesdale Rd in Flanders during the week of December 10th to the 14th. Times will be from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm Tuesday, Thursday and Friday as well as additional 5:30 to 6:30 pm on Thursday, and 6:00pm to 7:30 pm on Friday. The families will pick up the gifts the following week.
With the Christmas Wish List Program, all information is confidential so there is no need to worry.
Impressively, over 10,000 families participate in giving presents, “it gets bigger every year,” Friedman says proudly.
“I came up with the idea 7 years ago when a family who
was using the food pantry at the church asked for help buying gifts for their children, “ she shares. “I realized I had a really amazing network between the church congregation and my personal family and friends. I put out a Facebook plea for help and the response was overwhelming. What started out as an outreach for one family now helps approximately 75 children every Christmas!”
Parents send the wish lists for their children and presents can range from winter coats, to clothing, and other necessities, to baby dolls, craft supplies, sports equipment, and gift cards for teens.
On the website there is a little bit of information about each child at the sign up including age, interests, clothing/shoe sizes, and any specifics they might have asked for.
This is a great, easy way for people to aid others during the holidays.
Additionally, is an awesome community outreach for all kinds of groups out there.
Gifts should be wrapped and labeled with the Child ID # on a sticky note.
In addition to the gift giving program, Lowes in Mount Olive is donating trees and tree stands for families who need one on the list (Trees will be delivered this week). Any extras will go to the township to be distributed to families in need.
In talking to Friedman, it is easy to see her enthusiasm for the program and she shares that feedback has been overwhelmingly amazing, and she even participates herself. “The program has already exceeded all of my expectations,” she asserts. “People know that they have a safe confidential place to come for help. People who buy gifts know they are doing good locally.”
Friedman mentions that the generous spirit of the program has spread so far, that everyone is eager to take part in the program. She discloses that she is originally from Utica New York, and her family and friends up there contribute gifts and gift cards for the Mount Olive program. “Last year a group of friends from up there raised a couple hundred dollars towards gifts and gift cards,” she says excitedly. She even points to her two older daughters who helped her organize gifts during drop off week. “They are my little elves,” Freidman quips.
“This program is a true blessing to know there are so many generous people out there who give so freely to strangers in need,” Friedman remarks. “It is the highlight of my holiday season.”
Friedman points to one particular moment to know how the program resonates and speaks to everyone at large: “One man gives very generously every year, “ she shares, “He confided that when he was a young child his family was very poor and had it not been for the kindness of people from his church he would have many Christmas mornings with nothing under the tree. He looks forward to this chance to give back each Christmas.”
Freideman puts it perfectly when she says, “It warms my heart to know there are so many children benefiting from the kindness of strangers.”
For further information or details or to sign up, to give someone else a happy holiday, please visithttps://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0d4bada929a2fc1-2018