The Joy of Giving is embarking on its 31st year! The charity was created by Nicki Davis with what started as a small personal gift-giving effort but blossomed over the years. This year it will hit a record number with over 1,200 Collier County children! School teachers, camp counselors, principals and other service organizations and charities help identify the children in need each year. Once a child is identified, every child in the family under 18 is included.
Before sunrise at a local Walmart store, parents begin to line up. Dozens of elves (volunteers) for the Joy of Giving are at their posts. They join Walmart employees who’ve prepped merchandise and filled shelves specifically for the event with their scanners primed. Once in the store the gift selections are made, volunteers review each cart to make the check-out quick and easy and kids get a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus. On their way out, they’re given a frozen turkey courtesy of Island Country Club. All of this giving happens within a few hours and then it’s done until the next year!
What you don’t see in this vignette of the Joy of Giving day is the months of preparation, fundraising and the behind the scenes work that takes place long before the giving day itself. It starts with lots and lots of phone calls to identify where the need is the greatest.
The second task, which takes the most effort, is the fundraising. It is by far the most difficult part. A financial goal is set based on the number of children to account for and this year, that number is over 1,200!
“Every cent of every dollar goes straight to the kids. There aren’t any admin costs, even our office supplies are donated. Everyone working with the Joy is 100% volunteer. Although money doesn’t exchange hands with the parents, it goes directly from the bank to the store. Each parent gets to shop for their child.”
Nicki went on to explain, “The financial support of the Island Country Club Charitable Foundation (ICCCF) keeps the Joy giving. Their members volunteer to work the registers, assist with check out and they bring an entire truck filled with frozen turkeys to ensure each family not only has a few gifts, but they can make a traditional Christmas dinner as well; all of this in addition to donating financially. The Foundation is a big supporter of the Joy of Giving and all its good deeds. We couldn’t have the Joy of Giving each year if it wasn’t for ICCCF; and we’d also like to recognize the Condo Association Managers of Marco Island, Noontime Rotary Club, Phil Penzo and Marco Office Supply, Skin Renewal, First Florida Integrity Bank, Bella Business Solutions and the SW Regional Manager of Coldwell Banker and so many other individual Ambassadors of the Joy of Giving.
“This year we have identified a few dire cases and we really would like everyone who can possibly help us go above and beyond to provide a Christmas for them.” There are very needy people in this county, please let’s not forget the children at Christmas. To make a donation, go to jogchildren.org or send a check to PO Vox 2302, Marco Island, FL 34145.