“Santa, I knew you wouldn’t forget me. Last year I waited and waited and you didn’t come.”
Santa Claus heard those words from a little girl back in 1988. That little girl’s cry to Santa gave birth to the Joy of Giving, a 501(c) (3) charitable non-profit that now reaches 1,000 children in our area year, filling their hearts with the magic of Christmas.
The organization was founded by Nicki Davis, who is assisted by many volunteers, some who have been with the charity from its inception.
Misty Sayah serves as Head Elf, while Ernie Bordon fills the role of Child Ambassador. The volunteers spend many hours connecting with local schools and social service organizations to identify families that are in-need. Through general donations and sponsorship from community partners, the Joy of Giving enables financially challenged to purchase gifts for their children. All donations go directly to these purchases, while in-kind donations from the community provide operational expenses, like postage from Coldwell Banker, stationery from Marco Office Supply and website services by Absolute Performance.
On a specific day in December, the parents head to Walmart for the Joy of Giving shopping event. After checking in, they are given a dollar amount to spend on age-appropriate items for their children. The goal for 2016 is to raise $110,000. A donation of $25 provides a toy for one child. $75 provides clothing and shoes and $100 provides a bicycle/helmet/lock for a child. $600 covers bikes, toys and clothing for a family. $1,000 enables the Joy of Giving to provide assistance for 10 children.
Nicki describes the Joy of Giving as “the people’s charity.”
“The volunteers make me cry with happiness,” she added. “I’mthe luckiest person in the world because of this charity. I feel such joy when I see the joy that is brought to the children and their parents. I feel joy at seeing the love in the hearts of the volunteers. Now, many of the children of our volunteers are becoming involved as well. It has become one big circle of joy.”
Nicki is especially grateful to the Island Country Club Charitable Foundation.
“Members of the Island Country Club show up at 6 AM to personally give a turkey to each of the families. Members also assist on the registers and personally give over half of the donations,” she said with tears of happiness.
For several years, Ernie Bordon and the staff at Marco’s Autocraft Collision Center have presented the Ride for Joy, a motorcycle poker run that benefits the Joy of Giving. This year’s event is Sunday, Nov. 27. The fee is $25 per bike, $10 per rider. Registration will take place at 8:30 AM at the SpeakEasy, 1160 N. Collier Boulevard., Marco Island, where riders can enjoy a complimentary breakfast. At 10 AM, it’s kickstands up and the ride proceeds to its first stop, Sneaky Pete’s, 3465 Bonita Beach Rd., in Bonita Springs. The next stop is Joey D’s, 3300 Davis Boulevard in Naples. Then it’s on to Cracklin Jacks at 2560 39th St. SW, Naples. Finally, the riders will head back to the SpeakEasy for the final card and auction. There will be prizes for the best and worst hands. But the real winners will be the children who will feel the magic of Christmas because of this wonderful event.
To donate, volunteer or learn more about the Joy of Giving and the Ride for Joy visit jogchildren.org.