Santa’s Helpers founder Amanda Chirico’s living room is filled with presents going to needy families this Christmas. With the help of friends and strangers over 30 families received gifts and grocery cards — a tribute to help Chirico’s family received 30 years ago.

Making Christmas that much more special in Nelson

It may have been 30 years ago, but some Christmas memories last a lifetime.

It may have been 30 years ago, but some Christmas memories last a lifetime.

When Amanda Chirico was a little girl, someone in the community helped her family by bringing donations to their home during the holiday season. Her mom was a proud single parent with five young daughters.

“I didn’t know that we were poor as kids. I had no clue. Mom was a very proud person,” said Chirico. “She asked, ‘who did this? Who did this?’ And the ladies who were walking in boxes of food and presents said, ‘just people who wanted you to have a good Christmas.’ And that was the first time I’d ever seen my mom cry.”

With the memory still alive in Chirico’s heart after many years, she decided it was time to give back.

“I thought if I remember that 30 years later, I need to do that for someone else,” she said.

And Santa’s Helpers was born. Five years ago, Chirico put out her request on Facebook hoping her friends; co-workers and neighbours would help her give one local family a better Christmas.

“I was quite overwhelmed by the response,” she said.

In Santa’s Helpers first year, they helped four families, not one. It’s grown ever since.

This year, 32 families are on the receiving end of generosity funneled through a Facebook page organized and maintained by Chirico. More than 75 people participated.

Santa’s Helpers depends on the help of local schools that identify families who may not qualify for social assistance. These folks are already flagged for help by other agencies, said Chirico.

“We specifically wanted to find those families who were trying to make it, but maybe falling through the cracks,” she said. “It’s incredible how many families there are.”

Schools who participated gave out ages and genders of attending students, but that’s it. Maintaining anonymity is important for Chirico.

Then, the call goes out and people are more than happy to support Santa’s Helpers thanking Chirico for organizing the effort. Along with positive feelings, gifts start piling up at her home and Annie’s Boutique.

“There is just an incredible support system of friends and acquaintances and people that just want to do it. Most of the time they say to me ‘I want to do this I just don’t know where to start.’”

This year Santa’s Helpers will distribute 85 presents to children and $2,300 in grocery gift cards to families.

The week before Christmas, presents were delivered to the schools where staff made arrangements for drop-off or pick-up.

“The only thing I want them to say if anyone asks is that this was from a group that wanted families to have a bit of a better Christmas this year,” she said, using the words she heard as a child.

For Chirico, playing Santa has grown into an experience requiring patience and understanding alongside the tremendous gratitude she feels.

“It’s overwhelming to be honest,” she said. “When I first wanted to do this it was simple — there were just a few families.”

The challenge of coordinating more and more donors with children means making many lists and checking them more than once. Santa has her elves as helpers, but ultimately it’s Chirico’s project. Driven to keep this going into its fifth year, she said it’s all about the heartwarming feeling she gets.

“Someone knocked on my door last night at 9 o’clock with a gift. I don’t even know the person. They said this is for Santa’s Helpers. I thanked them and put it in the living room and I cried,” she said. “I have all these wrapped presents in my living room and they’re just so lovely. And all these presents came from the hearts of strangers.”

Chirico has always been surrounded by love at Christmas time. She came from a big family and now has one of her own. Her children are 17, 15, 11 and nine-years-old.

“It’s chaotic, but lovely,” she said.

Chirico’s kids support her as she devotes much of her Christmas energy to Santa’s Helpers.

“They all know that our house is overflowing with gifts for a very short amount of time and not one of them belongs to them,” she said.

The charitable mom hopes her children always remember the giving spirit and donate to a cause like it when they’re grown.

 

Just Posted

Castlegar council set to rule on three retail cannabis proposals

Residents have until Dec. 27 to comment on the business proposals

Nelson Boxing named province’s top club

The club won several awards while going 13-1 at provincials

Nelson council rejects review of mayor’s salary

Mayor Dooley proposed that $10,000 of his pay be put in trust and a review undertaken

Nelson-area man wants trapping laws changed after dog killed

Louis Seguin’s 10-month-old Australian shepherd died in a body-gripping trap last month

West Kootenay highways a mess as heavy snowfall continues

‘Roads are very icy, people have to be patient and have to slow down’

Man caught on camera allegedly trying to defraud ICBC

Auto-insurer warns B.C. drivers to record info after crashes

Senate delays start of sittings in new home, delaying start of broadcasts

The Senate and House of Commons are moving into temporary homes for the next decade as a result of long-planned and badly needed renovations to the Centre Block.

UK leader seeks EU lifeline after surviving confidence vote

EU leaders gather for a two-day summit, beginning Thursday, which will center on the Brexit negotiations.

French police try to catch attack suspect dead or alive

Local authorities increase death toll to three, including 13 wounded and five in serious condition

BCHL’ers blanked by Russia at World Junior A Challenge

Canada West loses battle of the unbeaten teams in the preliminary round

Second Canadian missing in China after questioning by authorities

Michael Spavor, founder of a non-profit that organizes cultural-exchange trips to North Korea, “is presently missing in China”

Cannabis gift ideas for this holiday season

Put the green in happy holidays, now that cannabis is legal in Canada

Warning issued as forecast calls for 20-foot waves in Tofino

Dangerous waves, strong currents and upper-shoreline flooding expected for Tofino-Ucluelet area

An 800-pound pig named Theodore needs a forever home, B.C. society says

‘Theodore is not destined to be somebody’s bacon’

Most Read