By Greg Ellison
(Jan. 7, 2021) An outpouring of last-minute donations saved the day for four children who are being raised by their grandmother and weren’t going to receive Christmas gifts this year because of tight finances.
The family’s plight came to light after contacting members of the Community Church at Ocean Pines and parishioner Larry Walton, who reached out to Colby Phillips on Dec. 22 to inquire about providing yuletide cheer.
“He asked if I had any toys leftover,” she said.
Phillips, who was involved in numerous charitable efforts this holiday season, assured Walton a number of people had made contact in hopes of lending aid for those still in need this Christmas.
“A lot of times people want to help but they don’t know where to start … or where to go,” she said.
Phillips, who helped found the Facebook page Local Help for You Worcester County, put out a social media alert the following day seeking assistance.
“Within hours I had almost $1,000,” she said. “It was unbelievable.”
Dozens of concerned souls jumped on board after learning about the grandmother who could assure a visit from Santa. Donations came in the form of toys and cash donations made through Venmo, a mobile payment service owned by PayPal.
“I gave out my Venmo because a lot of people want to help but they can’t get to the store or don’t feel comfortable going to the store with covid,” she said.
With the clock ticking and Christmas quickly approaching, Phillips enlisted help from her daughter, Sadie Kauffman, who also obtained assistance from three friends: Delaney and Addison McDaniel and Brooke Fitzgerald, who are all freshman classmates at Stephen Decatur High School.
“The girls and I were willing to go do the shopping,” she said.
In addition to having enough money to buy gifts for two boys, ages one and five, and two girls, ages seven and nine, a gift card was purchased with the remaining donations to help the grandmother defray costs for raising the children.
“We had a lot of fun picking out the toys,” she said. “I don’t get to buy toys anymore so it was fun for me.”
One of the primary requests from the family was for cold weather gear.
Phillips said that need was almost instantly responded to by Skip and Sandra Schlesinger.
“Anytime we have families in need, they’re very quick to act,” she said. “They immediately went out and got all the kids coats, hats and PJ’s.”
Phillips said upwards of 40 people tagged on the social media post were fast to lend aid.
“Within 24 hours we were able to provide for that … it was overwhelming,” she said.
Phillips said the display of community kindness was had an effect on her daughter and friends who helped purchase and wrap the gifts delivered by Santa.
“They were my elves in Santa’s workshop,” she said. “They spent 2-3 hours wrapping.”
Sadie Kauffman said witnessing the rapid community response was an eye-opening experience.
“It’s important because you need to make sure everybody has what they need and [are] happy,” she said. “It felt good giving to other people.”
Delaney McDaniel concurred with that perspective.
“I always volunteer,” she said. “I always enjoy it and it makes me feel good to help other people.”
Phillips said answering a call for help is generally a powerful experience.
“The biggest reward is what you get in giving and the smile on their face,” she said. “That’s our purpose in life … to do for others.”
While the financial backing offered was tangible, Phillips was quick to note that people who cannot afford to donate can still lend support in other forms.
“Praying for people that are in need is also a way that you can contribute,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be material.”