The holidays can be a stressful time. Some families struggle to provide special gifts for their children and many organizations work to help them with those needs. Jennifer White, owner of A Joyful Noise Christian Daycare and Learning Center, saw a different segment of the population that was being missed and she decided to fill that niche with what she is calling Project Christmas Love.
Project Christmas Love started last year as a way to bring unwrapped toys and gifts to patients at Maine Medical Center who are terminally ill or very ill and can’t leave the hospital to buy gifts for their children or grandchildren. This is a way for them to pick out gifts for those loved ones.
“We then wrap each gift for them and put name tags on them. The gifts are left in the patient's room so they can surprise their loved ones for Christmas. The doctors and nurses were so appreciative and supportive of us doing this and really wanted us to continue the tradition this year,” said White.
This year White and her squad will be going to Maine Medical Center on December 21, to provide the chance for patients to pick out presents.
“For the last decade Peter Kneeland from Edward Jones in Windham has had a company party where people bring in a toy. They started to bring them to us to find families in need,” White said. Sometimes she found families in her daycare center and other times, she found them in the community.
The idea came to her to take the unwrapped gifts to the terminally ill patients. The doctors and nurses helped steer her to see the right people. They started on the Gibson floor and then moved on to others who were planning to be in the hospital until Christmas or after.
“This year we are in need of collecting more toys and gifts along with Christmas wrapping paper, tape, bows and name tags so that we can help bring Christmas love and cheer to even more ill people. For some, this is their last Christmas. To be able to give their children a special gift means a lot to them,” White added.
Last year White and Barbara Lewis of Maine Real Estate Network went room to room at the hospital. People were so overwhelmed and appreciative, White said.
One woman told them that she was praying that God would provide a gift for her daughters and granddaughter. Project Christmas Love was the answer to her prayer.
“Sometimes they are not terminal, but are really having a hard time in life. The doctors know this person needs a pick me up,” she said.
“I know there are a lot of charities,” White said. She just asks that people think of this project as well.
The project is very special to White. When she was younger her grandmother died of cancer on Christmas Day. “Just before she died, she made my aunt promise she would buy presents for all of her children,” White said. “It’s near and dear to my heart. This makes it even more significant.”
Global Harvest Outreach is the non-profit organization started by White to help with the community service projects she was doing. “A lot of different projects are through that,” she said. With the non-profit status, she can also provide receipts for businesses and people who donate.
Project Christmas Love is looking for new toys for kids of all ages, teens, young adults, young kids. Monetary donations and gift cards are great as well. There is also a need for wrapping paper, bows and gift tags. The most popular items are books, Tonka Trucks, construction vehicles, animals, dolls and craft kits. For gift cards, $10 or $15 to Bull Moose, Subway, Game Stop or iTunes are big hits with teens.
One hundred percent of donations go toward the project. “We ran out of toys last year and could have spent another day at the hospital,” White said. “It makes them feel so good that they can leave something behind.”
Items can be dropped off at A Joyful Noise, 679 Roosevelt Trail, at the intersection of Route 302 and River Road until Friday, December 18. Businesses are encouraged to be a collection spot or to collect items for this cause. For more information or to speak with White directly, call 712-7371, visit www.projectchristmaslove.org or find them also on Facebook.