CommUNITY at Christmas by Gigi Guizado
Several of my inspirations are children, education, and helping others. When my daughter was little, I was very involved in her school. I offered to help her kindergarten teacher in any way. I was delighted and inspired when she asked me to organize a Family Giving Tree to help teach the children about charity! It was an honor and a pleasure to contact a local Rescue Mission I was familiar with through my church, and apply to sponsor a family for Christmas. It was uplifting to witness the beautiful paper ornaments the children made to decorate the tree, to label the ornaments with the needs and wishes of the family, and organize my fellow parent volunteers to wrap the gifts with the school children. This was at the beginning of the housing market crash and economic downturn, and I was concerned that it could be a hardship for our friends and neighbors to afford these additional gifts. My solution, to keep the project as inclusive as possible, was to hang several envelopes from the tree for donations of any amount that would be used to purchase any remaining items. Also, alongside the charming, handmade decorations asking for shoes, jackets, or toys, I tucked in a few that simply asked for prayer. Satisfied that there were options for all to participate at a level that was comfortable for them, I had the joy of watching the children select ornaments with their parents and proudly return with their offerings! Parent volunteers brought wrapping paper and involved every student in decorating the gifts. I used the donated money to buy the last needed gifts, and then we loaded them into my car. It was packed! After class, as I went to make the delivery, the teacher asked to join me, as she was curious to see the Rescue Mission. It is in a very poor urban area, but the workers and residents are positive and gracious. I felt blessed to have connected the teacher and the charity, the children’s empathy and the needs of a family.