A desire to brighten young faces on Christmas morning keeps one local woman’s charitable heart ticking.
Santa’s Helpers was started by Amanda Chirico with the hope of helping families who might otherwise not get assistance at Christmas. With the generosity of over fifty friends, family and acquaintances, she makes sure there are presents under the tree.
“They’re the backbone of this,” she said of the helpers that make her vision complete. “I absolutely couldn’t do this on my own.”
When Chirico was a little girl, she learned about community helping community — that people didn’t have to go it alone. Someone helped her family by bringing donations to their home during the holiday season. Her mom was a proud single parent with five young daughters. Even though more than 30 years have passed; the memory is still alive in Chirico’s heart as she works tirelessly to bring the same kind of joy to other families.
“Six years ago, I asked if anyone wanted to help make a local family’s Christmas better, a lot of friends stepped forward,” said Chirico. “After all was said and done, that first year, we helped four families.”
Santa’s Helpers has grown. Last year, 85 presents were gifted to children and $2,300 in grocery gift cards went to families.
It’s a huge commitment at a busy time of year but the mom of four children simply has to continue the tradition.
“If I don’t do it, maybe someone else won’t either and those kids who are hoping and don’t get something — I would wake up on Christmas morning and feel bad,” she said. “It takes a lot of effort and organization and time but in the grand scheme of things, it’s so minimal compared to what’s going on for some people.”
Chirico takes pride in the 100 per cent local tag she can attach to the Santa’s Helpers gift. And helping members of the Nelson community builds on the true spirit of Christmas.
“It could be your neighbour that’s benefitting. It could be your children’s friends — you just don’t know. There are lots of families that are struggling but they don’t tell people they’re struggling,” she said.
This year, a local woman offered to lend a hand to Santa’s Helpers and then Chirico learned this person was recommended for the program.
“She doesn’t know it yet but her children will be benefitting,” she said.
This story is touching for Chirico whose volunteer numbers are down this year.
“Maybe I’ve exhausted my friends and family,” she joked. “I’ve let people know, if they can’t this year, I totally understand.”
But she’d love to see people come on board. Gift cards are also appreciated because “everybody needs groceries” and this helps the parents of children benefitting.
Santa’s Helpers also depends on the help of local schools. They identify families who may not qualify for social assistance then pass on genders and ages to Chirico maintaining their anonymity. Schools help distribute gifts as well.
For more information or to offer up help check out Santa’s Helpers on Facebook at Santa’s Helpers For Local Families 2013. Chirico can also be reached by email at achirico(at)shaw.ca