Every year while we enjoy the holidays, many among us aren’t able to have a pleasant holiday. The hardest impact is on little children, who might not have enough to eat on Christmas day, let alone a single present.
Twenty four years ago, an islander was feeling very alone over the holidays. That person was Nicki Davis. Rather than allow herself to feel alone with her nearest family over 5,000 miles away, she thought of others who were less fortunate, and decided to buy Christmas toys and presents for a few needy children in the area, and thus, the Joy of Giving was born. Twenty four years later, the Joy of Giving has grown to meet the needs of hundreds of children. Over 900 area children will enjoy Christmas this year thanks to Nicki Davis and the Joy of Giving 501(c) 3 charity. Children in need are identified through teachers, after school programs, and other organizations. Once a child is identified, the number of children in the family is determined and each is given a specified dollar amount they can spend atthe shopping event. They can shop for bicycles, toys, clothes and shoes. By doing their own shopping anonymously, the family retains a sense of dignity. The program is supported by Walmart which allows for tax exempt shopping and puts on additional staff to help with the shopper. A parent/family enters Walmart, they check in and are given a card with a specified dollar amount. All merchandise must be age appropriate for the children. They shop and then the items in their cart are scanned. The family must stay within their allotted dollar amount, but if they are under, they are instructed to pick out more items before they get to the cash register. The cash register rings up the purchase and the family is given a ticket. Upon leaving the store, the ticket is handed to a member of Island Country Club who in turn gives them a frozen turkey.
“Island Country Club is a major supporter, not only by supplying hundreds of turkeys, but with fundraising for the program,” said Nicki Davis. “This program wouldn’t exist if it were not for the generosity of Island Country Clubmembers. Each year, the funds we raise are divided among the number of children identified. The more successful our fundraising, the more each child receives. 100% of each donation goes right to the children.” In addition to Island Country Club and Walmart, other groups such as Christmas Island Style, along with the Marco Riders motorcycle club support the Joy. Christmas Island Style and the Riders will do a run on Sunday, December 2, starting at Porky’s at 8:30 AM. Joy also receives support from the Upon A Star Foundation and even the Shops of Marco supported the Joy of Giving this year with a raffle held during Santa’s arrival. The big day is coming up: Saturday, December 15th at 6:00 AM at Walmart, 6650 Collier Boulevard. “Our efforts right now are on fundraising,” said Nicki, “Every cent goes right to the kids. There is just so much need right here in own backyard. It seems unbelievable, but there are hundreds of children in need Collier County.” For information on donations or on how you can help the Joy of Giving, go to their website at joyofgivingchildren.org, or call Nicki Davis at 239/642-0119.