The Joy of Giving started off years ago as one person — Nicki Davis — getting presents for a few less fortunate children. Within a few years, the charity grew into a handful of elves helping more children and their siblings. Today, it is a 501(c)(3) charity which has grown to serve more than 1,000 children in Collier County thanks to the help of dozens of individuals and various organizations.
Davis is still behind it all, but she insists she could not have done it without her right hand, Misty Sayah. “Each year we get better,” said Davis, “and each year, we make notes on what we can improve on the following year. As always, we come across families and have experiences that remind us why the Joy is here and what makes it work so well!”
She added: “We couldn’t do this without the help of the Island Country Club. Island Country Club has dedicated more to the Joy of Giving than any other organization.They donate not only financially, but they work to check people through the registers and give a frozen turkey to each family as well. Then we have Walmart who stepped in a few years ago. They don’t just allow us to hold the event here, they actively help us streamline the process and add key personnel so we don’t make it difficult on the people we are trying to help. There aren’t long lines and endless waiting as in prior years.
“Besides, Island Country Club and Walmart, we have some Collier County teachers who help us identify the families in need; the Noontime Rotary Club; Ernie Bordon; a group of motorcycle enthusiasts who run the Ride for Joy poker run every year; a golf tournament; the Condo Managers of Marco Island; Marco Island Academy; and Shops of Marco too. Too many groups and individuals to mention them all. I am so afraid some of them just aren’t coming to mind this moment. I don’t want anyone to think we don’t appreciate them all!”
[/caption] wp-image-44332″ src=”http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/A15-CBN-12-26-14-4.jpg” alt=”A15-CBN-12-26-14-4″ width=”200″ height=”79″ />This year’s event was held on Dec. 13, and by 5:30 AM, more than 100 people were waiting for the doors to open. Santa and Mrs. Claus were on hand to greet the children; Walmart employees had scanners in hand; and the Joy of Giving volunteers were on the ready. A group of bi-lingual students were available just to help the shoppers communicate.
Each family checks in, and they have a preapproved amount of money allocated to them based on the number of little children. They shop up to the dollar amount allocated. They are “pre-scanned” to know where they stand in relation to the what was allocated, and once they have gotten through the cashier who rings up their cart, they are given a free turkey. No money changes hands at the store.
“Every year, we have experiences which touch our hearts and remind us why this is such important work. First, this year, we worked closely with a family with aterminally ill child. We had another experience with a volunteer who scanned through a family who was slightly over their allocation. The cart was filled with toddler-aged toys, but a preteen son had accompanied his mom to the store, he had only one item, a video game. When he realized he didn’t have to put the game back, he began jumping up and down. Then there is the mom who had covered her registration card with notes. She worked long and hard to be certain she spent every cent wisely; it meant so much to her. Everyone who works the Joy of Giving seems to have a touching experience that brings them back to volunteer year after year. Many of our volunteers have worked with us for 20 or more years. It’s the smiles on the children’s faces and the look of gratitude on the faces of parents which warms our hearts. It really is the Joy of Giving.”
Bicycles and skateboards wheeled by, baby and toddler toys, princess crowns, dolls and sporting goods fillshopping carts. For many, Christmas simply means new jeans or a pair of new shoes, maybe a new jacket or a dress.
Davis appreciates Sayah the most. “Misty works with many of the families as an after-school camp counselor. She works with other camp counselors and the school teachers and goes above and beyond in trying to help, all the while trying to maintain the privacy and dignity of each family. She is an amazing person with an enormous heart. She has a unique understanding of the people we work with and she works endless hours for the Joy of Giving.”
Indeed, Sayah was already there early Saturday morning ready and willing to handle any situation that came up. She met with groups of volunteers to go over last minute instructions and oversaw the entire operation with Nicki, making sure everything ran smoothly.
Work on the 2015 Joy of Giving has already begun. “We hope it is bigger and better in 2015 too, serving the children and families best. We wish each has had a very Merry Christmas!”