JOY Board 2013Joy to the Children, Inc. is an all-volunteer organization that provides a Christmas Day celebration for Nassau County, Florida, children and their families who need assistance.  Because of you, economically disadvantaged children have participated in this celebration since 1995!  You have been the heart of this occurrence by your generous donations of time, talent, and monetary commitment.

2014 President’s Letter

It is with a warm heart that I realize that 19 years have passed since the inception of Joy To The Children. As I reflect on 1995… I was a Children’s Case Manager at Nassau County Mental Health Center (now Starting Point); while across town there were wonderful conversations that were about to come to fruition. Mike Smith and several of his friends, who called themselves “The Orphans” (because they were empty-nesters, widowed, or divorced), regularly celebrated the holidays together. By the suggestion of Mike, they decided that rather than spending money on each other at Christmas time, they would pool together their resources and help some children in need.

Mike came to us at the Mental Health Center with an interest in identifying children which could use support.  I immediately joined the cause and became the person who identified the children who would be our guests at the party. We wanted to offer a party specifically on Christmas Day to children who would wake up Christmas morning to a ‘normal’ day, a day that would be like all the others due to their economic disadvantage. Local restaurants donated food for the party, and the children visited with Santa who brought them gifts of clothes and toys.

Santa and Mrs Claus

Santa and Mrs Claus

We have grown over the 19 years, and for a few years now I have been the only ‘original’ still on the board. Our holiday feast is still donated by local restaurants; and there is entertainment which includes live music, caroling, face painting, crafts, pirate invasion, puppeteer, clowns, and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus. The children receive clothing, a backpack, school supplies, toiletries, books, bedding, and, of course, toys… all purchased specifically for each child based on their age, gender, size, interests, and hobbies.

joy-to-the-children-volunteersThere is not one single part of JOY that I could say is the best part, other than the underlying beauty of love and giving. JOY is a wonderful experience for both the children, and for volunteers. We have several hundred volunteers which assist JOY in every step of the production. Volunteers coordinate logistics, shop, wrap presents and decorate for the party. 50+ volunteers come on Christmas Day to help at the party; some work in the kitchen, and some we call Family Angels as they are at service to a family for the day. Our board members are volunteers as well, and include: Vice President Stephanie Mooney, Secretary Joanne Wright, Treasurer Susan Childers, Volunteer Coordinator Dan Morris, Jan McCray, Bill Mooney, Hope Harbin, Collette Gray, Sandy Balzer, and Cathy Mack.

We are a non-profit with no paid staff or overhead, all donations go straight to serving our guests. Each year we average 160 children, this year we have 50 families which consists of 157 children. We serve only children and their families from Nassau County and our families are selected through 17 schools and service organizations. Agency lists are cross referenced to ensure that assistance is going to benefit as many families as possible.

In addition to the Christmas Day celebration, Joy to the Children also works with FSCJ to provide scholarships for Nassau County graduating seniors.  Each year we award two scholarships in the amount of $1500 each. We target students who not only show promising scholastic ability, but who also demonstrate a drive and determination to overcome challenging life circumstances. Provided the recipients show satisfactory academic progress, they receive the same amount for the second year.

Please consider joining our efforts.

You can contribute financially at Po Box 16404, Fernandina Beach, Fl 32035 or on our website: joytothechildren.org. Or if you’d like to volunteer, you can email us at info@joytothechildren.org. You’ll also find us on Facebook: joytothechildrennassau


Dawn Grant