Merry Christmas! 2016 marks my 20th Christmas with OPEN M. Of all the programs we offer, this is my favorite because of the way it brings joy and hope to so many people who are struggling. To come alongside people in their time of need and build them up with love and gifts brings a multitude of blessings not only to the recipient families, but to the donors, and OPEN M staff as well.
This year will also mark my last Christmas as CEO of OPEN M, as I will retire on April 1, 2017. I plan to continue to work part-time for OPEN M in the area of development and fundraising throughout 2017. As I step out of my Cheif Executive Officer role, I personally want to thank you for your support and generous heart through the Christmas program and many other programs over the years. You have shown Christ’s love in such a unique and tangible way.
Over 20 years of Christmases, I have been doubly blessed to see both the excitement of the giver and the gratitude of the receiver. In years past, we would bring Christmas for the Love of Children gifts to the families’ homes. And so, I am fortunate to take with me the many memories of the children’s faces that lit up with joy and laughter as gifts and food were dropped off. I remember the words of small children who were more excited about the food than the gifts knowing they were going to have more than enough to eat over the holidays. I think of the little boy who had a small, 12 inch tree on a stand with only one small gift under it wrapped in newspaper. When we came in with food and gifts galore, he just kept running around the room in excitement. Another memory ingrained in my mind is that of a snowy day when my family delivered gifts to three small children who watched excitedly from the house as we unloaded our trunk. The little girl became so excited, she ran out to greet us in her bare feet! I dropped the gifts to run and pick her up. OPEN M made their last Christmas so very special, as all three were taken too soon that following spring in a tragic car accident.
It has been just as much fun watching the volunteers and donors prepare Christmas for these little ones. I am amazed when I think of the hundreds of volunteer hours that have gone into bringing the whole community together to give the greatest gift of all: God’s love and hope. We’ve had two major “Christmas Angels” who generously helped to make all those wonders possible for so many additional children on the list, Mr. Anonymous and Sam Keller. Sam would bring his crew to help shop and would personally fill the carts with gifts. It was not unusual to have 8 to 12 carts filled to the brim with gifts! Sam now watches from the best seat in the house, heaven.
Thank you again for your support and for helping us put the “LOVE” in the Christmas for the Love of Children Program. As I begin this new season of my life, I stand in amazement having seen how generous and caring the people of the greater Akron area really are, and I know that I’ve been blessed to have been a part of it. May God bless you richly as you share your Christmas blessing with others this year and in the years to come!
“For unto us a child is born, for unto us a Savior is given.”