Wow, hard to believe we are in our 21st year!
In 1995 Mike Smith and several of his friends, who called themselves “The Orphans” (because they were empty-nesters, widowed, or divorced), decided that rather than spending money on each other at Christmas time, they would pool together their resources and help some children in need.
At the time I was working as a Children’s Case Manager with Nassau County Mental Health (now known as Starting Point), and The Orphans came to us in search of children they could help. We were excited to accommodate them with about 30 families in need.
Ever since 1995 we have helped approximately 65 families each year… that’s about 160 children every year. We look for families that will “likely not have Christmas otherwise,” and invite them to our Christmas Day celebration. Local restaurants donate food for the party, and the children visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus who bring them gifts and necessities.
What a great time the families have! They are entertained by live music, caroling, face painting, crafts, pirate invasion, and clowns. The children receive clothing, a backpack, school supplies, toiletries, books, a blanket, sheets, a pillow, and toys… all purchased specifically for each child based on their age, gender, size, interests, and hobbies. Bibles are also available to the families if they choose to have one.
In all reality… JOY is a wonderful experience for both the families AND for our volunteers. Several hundred volunteers 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, our Family Angels, provide one-on-one service to assigned families for the day.
Our board members are volunteers as well, and include: President Dawn Grant, Vice President Stephanie Mooney, Secretary Keri Duffy, Treasurer Maggie Madden, Volunteer Coordinator Arlyse McDowell, Dan Morris, Bill Mooney, Hope Harbin, Collette Gray, Sandy Balzer, Leigh Palmer, Marcie Roberts, and Susan Childers.
We are a non-profit with no paid staff and minimal overhead, mostly all of the donations go straight to serving our guests.
We serve only children and their families from Nassau County. The families are identified and referred to us via agencies which monitor and assist the homeless of Nassau County. We always make an effort to cross reference our guest list with other holiday assistance programs to ensure that those we serve are not being served elsewhere.
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 do so on the website as well.
You’ll also find us on Facebook: joytothechildrennassau