Most people count days on a calendar waiting for their birthdays and special occasions to come, expecting to receive a gift and spend some quality time with their loved ones. These special dates become the most wonderful moments of the year and we wait for them like hopeful kids eager to share some time with our family and friends and unwrap presents. But, what happens with those who don’t have a family and are disabled? Who bears gifts to them?
Luckily, there is a non-profit organization in Santa Barbara you probably didn’t know existed dedicated to bringing joy and company to those less fortunate: Angels Bearing Gifts. This organization started as an anonymous good action and grew into a not for profit institution with a unique mission among institutions and nonprofits in the United States.
Kenny Slaught recognizes that Angels Bearing Gifts aims to bring happiness to people who suffer from any type of developmental disability and has no family members to share time on special dates such as birthdays, Christmas or holidays. The organization’s mission is to foster compassion and raise awareness within the Santa Barbara community, teaching community members about developmental disabilities through educational activities planned by volunteers.
Members of the organization are the ones in charge or shopping, wrapping and delivering personalized gifts to more than 200 people every year. Each gift is purchased according to the list the recipient sends to the organization. Funds to buy presents come from donors and are used to buy whatever is included on the recipient’s wish list. Most recipients live on limited resources and dream of getting a present meant to be for them on their birthdays or special holidays. Common requests include clothes, music, toiletries and handmade crafts. Such things seem to be simple, but they mean the world to those who wish for them.
How Angels started bearing gifts in Santa Barbara
The foundation was created based on the good deeds of Evelynn Smith, the mother of a developmentally disabled adult daughter. She started wondering about what would happen to her once she was gone. Who would bring her a birthday present? Thanks to these ideas, this woman became an activist in Santa Barbara, raising awareness towards developmentally disabled individuals whose families are absent from their lives.
Since 1999, the organization has delivered holiday gifts to numerous individuals. What started as an initiative to give presents to nine children has turned into an organization that bears gifts to more than 200 individuals in Santa Barbara who have no families. The foundation aims to relieve the pain generated by the absence of family members or friends during special holidays (birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Hanukkah and Christmas), reminding recipients that they are very important and their lives also matter to the world.
The foundation has done its best during the past 17 years to fulfill the wishes of every member, trying to reach more individuals each year in a very enthusiastic way, being grateful for what they can do for their community.
The Foundation Today
As it was said before, currently the foundation bears gifts to more than 200 individuals with developmental disabilities whose families are absent or have withdrawn from their lives. Angels Bearing gifts try to remind these individuals that they are important by giving them the present they asked for on their appeal lists. Special occasions such as Valentine’s Day or Christmas are perfect moments of the year when the foundation can do what does best and show them that they too are special.
Angels Bearing Gifts collects the money to purchase the gifts or allows donors to buy gifts themselves and ship them to the foundation’s facilities. Recipients of these gifts live in nursing facilities, group homes or apartments with live-in or shift health professionals. Usually, they suffer from different types of conditions such as Down syndrome, autism, genetic disorders, cerebral palsy, mental retardation or a variety of chromosomal disorders.
The foundation not only helps people with developmental disabilities, it also offers educational programs that intend to raise awareness and foster compassion towards Santa Barbara community members who suffer from one of the conditions named above. Angels count on a handful of speakers for the County Schools Curriculum who teach some lessons on third-grade classrooms around the County. Living examples of individuals with disabilities come to the classrooms and talk to students about their day to day struggles and how wonderful it is to find out that someone cares about you on your birthday or Christmas.
The foundation also offers community service opportunities for high school students, especially during the holiday season. Posts are opened for volunteers who can help with the shop, wrap and deliver gifts. Volunteers can also sew or decorate gift bags and help to collect toiletries items like shampoo or toothbrushes. Items such as flashlights, socks, and quarters for laundry machines are often listed by recipients on their wish lists and volunteers can help packing them.
Angels bearing gifts depends solely on volunteers. The foundation ideas, ambitions, and goals are built by a committed team who are passionate about its cause. Every year many members gather together to help the foundation during Christmas and other special holidays, opening its doors to anyone who wants to be part of the Angels’ family.
Angels fly and bear gifts thanks to the support of the Santa Barbara community, who serve unconditionally and passionately to this cause, with individuals who are generous and compassionate and are willing to build a better world for people with developmental disabilities.