Dear St John’s,

We hope that this year brings only goodness to you and your loved ones! We just wrapped up another wonderful season of love and compassion through our Christmas Giving Tree.

On Thursday December 22 at around 11:45 am we finished sorting the gifts and gift cards that you kindly purchased for our six sponsored families. We managed to fit everything into one of our vehicles (which looked fuller than Santa’s sleigh) and proceeded to drop the goodies at GIAC and at the house of a local teacher, our contact for the two Burmese families on our list.

We enthusiastically received many bear hugs on your behalf, and were proud to describe how one by one the tags on the tree returned properly attached to their corresponding gift request, beautifully wrapped, or with warmly written notes and cards. We brought abundant smiles and hope to many local children and adults this year!

We know that we are making a difference but seldom are we given the chance to learn firsthand what the presents really mean. This time around, however, we received a unique gift in return: a short story that our contact teacher told us. That same morning, EHK, the 9 year old boy in her class, and in our family #5, broke down in tears and told her how since the death of his father (late in the Spring of 2017) everything had become much harder for them. He related how hard it is for the family to get food and clothing, and just about everything else. When, in addition to the gifts, I presented her with an envelope containing $210 in TOPS gift cards just for his family, we both knew what it would mean for them to receive such an unexpected windfall. The Mission Committee will discuss other practical ways in which we might continue a relationship with this family throughout the year, and will reach out to you in case you want to become a part of this effort.

This year, due to your generosity in bringing more than we asked for, we can only provide you with an approximation of what the families received (for example, in several instances, instead of a $25 TOPS card we received $100; instead of one article of clothing for a child, we received several; instead of one toy for a particular child we received one for every child in the family).

We handed out between about $150 to $300 per family in TOPS cards (for a total of about $1615). We collected toys for toddlers, doll houses, stuffed animals, Lego, Science & jewelry making kits, board games, puzzles; warm clothing ranging in size from 18 months to men’s medium for the teenage boys –in addition to boxes of cookies and chocolates for everyone.

And yet, there is an even sweeter ending to the whole thing! 2 days before the gifts were due, one of us was talking at work about how, in spite of our best efforts, we were not able to sponsor a 7th family that we had in the past, but couldn’t include this year (grandparents raising two of their grandchildren and now also great-grandchildren). This resulted in a last minute large donation that, coupled with some funds from our budget, allowed us to include these grandparents in our gift giving to provide them with $150 in TOPS gift cards and an item of clothing and a toy for the younger children.

So, once again, THANK YOU falls short to properly acknowledge your effort. Seven families is a record for us, and we were only able to reach everyone because of your generosity.
May 2018 also bring you much joy and kindness from unexpected sources!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!