WEDNESDAY WOMAN – Keeping track of gifts
CHRISTMAS WOULD BE incomplete for Donna Gittens and her daughter Michelle Gittens if they were unable to give gifts to scores of children.
And this charitable task which these two individuals have taken up since 1998 is not a game; they take this annual duty so seriously that “if Christmas is approaching and we realise that each child on our list won’t get two gifts” they pull their pockets to hit the stores, sometimes even leaving the island’s shores “because we must have enough gifts”.
The gifts are given to the children who are affected with cancer directly or indirectly when they attend the Barbados Cancer Society’s annual children Christmas party in December. The children are given two gifts so that if they open one at the party, they would have one to open on Christmas morning.
Thirty-four-year-old Michelle told the MIDWEEK NATION that while she and her mother had given thousands of gifts over the years, it was no easy task because of the amount of work that was put into gathering the presents to make little boys and girls happy.
“There is a lot of work which goes into this programme; it’s not just about asking people for gifts, wrapping the gifts, putting on names and handing them over to the children. Come January, I’m looking for a new list so that I would know how many gifts I have to get and so that I can start asking around. This list also helps me to not give a child the same gift twice. I know who I have given Monopoly to; I know who I have given Uno to . . . . I know every gift that I have given every child,” said the smiling teacher and owner of Aunty Michelle’s Preschool and Day Care.
“We ask all of the parents of the children at the preschool to give us a gift and they in turn go to work and ask their co-workers. We ask companies, family and friends, almost anybody we come in contact with.
“People who I ask are willing to do it every year but this year was very hard not only because of the recession. People are changing their jobs; I had a parent who changed jobs and when they phoned their old job to ask for gifts, nobody ever got back to them. So instead of getting fifteen gifts, I got two gifts from that parent,” said the teacher.
The Regency Park residents, whose home is turned into a veritable North Pole during the latter part of each year, admitted that the thought behind the gift was pivotal. Nevertheless, Michelle and Donna’s children are deserving of the best, so before the gifts go out to the children, “Santa’s elves” inspect most of them.
“We ask somebody for a nice gift and if we trust that person we know that the gift can go out like that. But, there are some people we don’t know what they will give . . . . One time I had somebody give me two plastic bangles wrapped up in a nice gift bag,” said Michelle.
Her mother added: “What we were taught is that when you are going to give, give of your best because far too many people give what’s left. I say to people, ‘If you find something that costs five dollars and you say to yourself that your child would love it, go ahead and buy it for one of our children’,” said Donna as she pointed out that they also distributed food hampers or vouchers to some of the children’s family.
They prefer to be out of the spotlight and not receive any public recognition because “once the children are happy, we are very much satisfied and that’s all that matters to us”. This mother and daughter team is contented when a child approaches them and says “Thank you for my gift”.
58-year-old Donna recalled a somewhat surprising incident that took place at this year’s party.
A six-year-old girl approached her and enquired, ‘Can you tell me where these gifts came from?’
Donna said: “I was going to say Santa Claus, but I thought, let me find out what she wants. So I said ‘But, honey, why do you need to know that?’ And she says, ‘Because I want to thank them for it.’ That little girl’s father is in hospital dying from cancer.”
These kind-hearted souls thanked those individuals and companies that have contributed to the worthy cause over the years and extended a welcome to new contributors.