Gifts for Kids

By Willa Wick in Community, People

A new idea has been instigated by Palmerston resident Amy Habermehl. Christmas is for giving, and while trying to promote the true meaning of ‘giving from the heart’ to her two young children, Amy came up with a novel idea that fulfilled her mandate, benefitted the town, and brought happiness to many children in the County of Wellington.
Not all families are in a position to bestow multiple gifts on their children, and some youngsters receive very little. With that in mind, and formulating an idea of her own, Habermehl spent hours on the phone jumping through hoops, being referred from one area to another, until finally she arrived at a department that not only understood her idea but had a program where her plan could fit right in.
And thus “Gifts for Kids” evolved. It isn’t an easy road, there’s multiple forms and paperwork; the Privacy Act is paramount, and meticulous records must be kept so that everything runs smoothly.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that for its first season last year “Gifts for Kids” was an unprecedented success, and warmed the hearts of not only Habermehl and the children who received that extra special Christmas package, but also the hearts of those who took part.
The Children’s Foundation has partnered with Adopt-a-Family who in turn work with the Social Services Branch of the county to provide a list of eligible children plus their wish list. A bare tree was erected in the waiting room of Grant’s Service Centre on Palmerston’s main street. It was decorated with pink and blue paper balls. On the back of each ball was written the child’s first name and the special gift that (s)he wanted for Christmas plus color/size if applicable. The Christmas tree didn’t stay decorated very long!
Once people realized how the project worked it became a big hearted game to choose a ball, purchase the gift, (or gifts) and return to the Christmas tree. Many seniors who don’t have families of their own found it very stimulating to adopt a stranger and help make a child’s Christmas a happy one even tho’ the two will never know one another. Other parents, like Habermehl, had their children join in the spirit of giving and chose two or three balls.
There is a story of one couple who chose a pink ball. The gift this gal wanted was a poufy vest, of a certain size and color. Simple enough! Oh no it wasn’t – they tried many stores from here to London, and Guelph to Toronto with no avail. Their out-of-town daughter tried in Barrie. At the last minute, and to their relief, the vest was secured in Peterborough. When it was all over this venture had brought as much fun to the givers as the delight they knew their unknown recipient would have.
One little girl only wanted thick warm socks; her benefactor was so overcome with emotion when such a necessity was all the girl wanted, that she outfitted her from head to toe.
In 2012 there was a very short window of opportunity for purchases because it took so long to cut through the red tape and get everything organized. Nonetheless, all the balls were taken from the tree and parcels poured in along with donations of money for extra gifts and wrappings. Amy ensures there’s sufficient paper, ribbon, and bows for each set of gifts. This lets the parents feel they are part of it by wrapping the present(s). Some parents are too proud to let their little ones realize they’re in such dire straits that they couldn’t afford these gifts themselves, so they don’t tell them the parcels are from someone else – and that’s ok too – who would want to spoil the joy of Christmas for a youngster.
Last year in just a three week turn-around time, each of 35 Wellington County children received three gifts – and that was just from posting flyers and word of mouth marketing.
This year the first names of full families will be written on Christmas stars – most of these (privacy is again protected) are from North Wellington, which means contributions go right back into our own community.
Each family member will receive a $25 grocery gift certificate (No Frills, Food Basics, L & M, WalMart SuperStore etc) plus a gift of his/her suggestion. This requires a lot of organizing for Habermehl as no one benefactor would be expected to provide gifts for a whole family. Everything is numbered and recorded, and when the parcels are all returned Amy will box all one family’s together for final distribution (which is done from a central depot in Guelph).
What a wonderful experience – to have the gratification of doing something special for someone less fortunate than ourselves.

Quinn Habermehl showing just some of the 2012 Gifts for Kids packages (Amy Habermehl photo)

Quinn Habermehl showing just some of the 2012 Gifts for Kids packages (Amy Habermehl photo)

Ella Habermehl surrounded by just some of the 2012 Gifts for Kids parcels (Amy Habermehl photo)

Ella Habermehl surrounded by just some of the 2012 Gifts for Kids parcels (Amy Habermehl photo)

Amy Habermehl with her two children Quinn and Ella beside the 2013 Christmas tree (Sue Bridge photo)

Amy Habermehl with her two children Quinn and Ella beside the 2013 Christmas tree (Sue Bridge photo)