Feel-Good Friday: Personal side of giving brings out best in community
by Lori Souza / For the Tracy Press
Dec 20, 2012 | 3252 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Instead of the traditional Christmas party where we all swap elephant gifts we have stockpiled for years, or buy gifts for children we barely know, my group of friends decided that adopting a struggling family at Christmas is how we wanted to commemorate this year.

We are not a corporation, business or even staff in an office together. The amazing thing is that our Christmas dinner that started with a few friends turned into a small army of people wanting to pitch in for our cause, lovingly named the Gift of Giving.

It all started when my dear friend and host of the dinner, Kristy Soares, suggested we do some type of donation this year for her dinner party.

As a person who works in community service, I wanted to take the idea one step further and personalize our effort. I suggested we adopt a family struggling through the holidays.

From this idea spawned an excitement among our friends and family that spurred us to find that perfect family.

The Nelson family was chosen by Kristy and me because of their loving nature and dedication to caring for their children.

Hard times hit us all, but the Nelson family was hit at an unexpected time.

Right before Thanksgiving, they transitioned into their own home from living in a shelter.

During their time in the shelter, Mom faithfully attended school while Dad settled their four children into schools and looked for work.

By time the family saved up to move, Mom had graduated and Dad found a job. The family went from in crisis to stable — but that left little financial room for much of a Christmas.

At one point, Mom lovingly told me, “We give our kids lots of hugs — they are free, and they will remember those forever.”

Needless to say, it was not hard to want to help this family.

The Gift of Giving started with a simple request and a social media page inviting friends and family to join us and bring a gift for this family. It’s amazing how people reacted to our requests.

All of sudden, Christmas was in the air, and our friends, virtual strangers to the Nelson family, were out shopping for four great kids who had no idea their Christmas was about to turn into a true offering of kindness.

Gifts began to fill Kristy’s house, and we were getting calls left and right from people who wanted to drop something off. Most could not stay for dinner but wanted to bring something for this family anyway.

It was as if the moment we personalized our mission with the family name, people began to feel attached.

The Nelson family never asked to be adopted, but Dad did state he was so moved that “there are still good people in the world.”

He added, “I know someday we are going to do this for someone else, so thank you.”

I had no idea so many people would pitch in. I’m ashamed to say I underestimated our community. But it should not have shocked me, because my friends have hearts of gold and love for every child who needs a hand up.

As we make the final delivery this weekend, I will proudly represent so many people — and I’m sure to bring a few tears to a family that never expected much from strangers.

• Lori K. Souza, a 24-year resident of Tracy, is a family service worker at Head Start and a member of Grace Church.
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