Helping Central Florida Families for the Holidays with a Little Help from a Lot of People

by Melanie Edwards on December 20, 2012 · 4 comments

in life

Christmas_DSC2453 Source: Singh/Flickr

I shared that this holiday season I was fortunate to work on two holiday charitable giving opportunities with the help of some really great brands that want to support local communities. You can read all about one of those opportunities where I was able to donate holiday gifts to the Harbor House, benefiting domestic violence victims. But, let me tell you about the second opportunity, a collaborative effort between myself and three other Orlando bloggers sparked by the outreach of Kohl’s that became a truly great experience.

Holiday Donation Shopping at Kohl'sA little back story first…Kohl’s reached out to me about a Pay It Forward effort in which they wanted to collaborate with bloggers to pay it forward in their local communities. Kohl’s was offering a gift card to shop at their store and give back to my community as I deemed fit, though they hoped deserving children would benefit, which is in-line with their overall charitable efforts. I immediately thought that instead of donating unwrapped items to a toy drive, it would be great if I could adopt a family and help them out this Christmas.

It’s funny how one thought leads to another, because soon after, my mind started racing with all the possibilities. I thought about reaching out to other brands I already work with to see if they wished to donate extra items for the family. I figured that perhaps I could go beyond the family’s wish list and provide them some extra holiday cheer. And then I wondered if this could become a larger effort and thought about how many more families could be helped if other bloggers joined the effort. If each blogger has their individual brand relationships and we each reached out to brands we know and love, just how much good could we do for Orlando families?

And that’s when it happened – Kohl’s generously agreed to provide three extra gift cards so that three more Orlando bloggers could pay it forward. One email from Kohl’s sparked a bigger idea and resulted in a wonderful holiday giving effort that ultimately helped four deserving Central Florida families! But, that was only the beginning! So many other brands jumped on board and helped the four of us (Lee Allport of, Jen Burg of, Jessica Kirby of and myself) to help these families. It was truly exceptional how they were all about helping our local community and made it happen – in some cases this even meant sending overnight packages to us so that we could meet our deadline for dropping off donations to the organizations.

Kohl's Items for Families in Need

With the help of several brands, plus the gift card money Kohl’s provided, we helped four families in total – two families were helped through Catholic Charities of Central Florida, another through the New Image Youth Center, and a fourth family came via a local public school. (By the way, I had no idea that schools identify children in need and try to find them help for the holidays and other occasions.) We were able to provide items from each family’s wish list, plus extras that came in through donations from various brands, such as food, books, health and beauty items, gift cards, and even local theme park tickets so that each family could have a fun day out! Looking over the family’s list of needs and wishes truly put a lot of things into perspective – one mom asked for kitchen towels as her wish for Christmas, and most had clothes on their lists. I am hopeful that each family will enjoy Christmas this year and only wish we could have helped out even more families.

Holiday Charitable Giving Donations for Central Florida Families

It’s great to know that the connections and relationships developed over the last six years of being in the social media industry can be put to use for a greater good. First, local bloggers that I briefly knew from local events did not hesitate to participate and help. Secondly, brands were eager to help and came through in the most amazing way. For that, I can never thank them enough. I encourage you to give each of these brands some love, they truly deserve it!

Please also consider giving back to your community, if you’re able. This holiday season is a great way to begin paying it forward, but remember that families in need in your community need help year-round. I am sure local organizations can tell you how you can help best. If anything, you can help out right in your local Kohl’s store through their Kohl’s Cares program; a simple $5 purchase of  books, plush toys, and other items means that Kohl’s donates 100% of net profits to children’s health and education programs. Just think, you can help out in two ways with such a purchase if you in turn donate the item you purchase!

Be sure to also check out the posts from the other ladies who helped Orlando families this holiday season! And for a peek at some of the brand donations, check out my Instagram pics.

How do you pay it forward throughout the year?

Disclosure: Kohl’s provided a gift card for purchasing donation items in order to Pay it Forward in my local community. Additional donations were provided by each respective brand. No compensation received.

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1 Lisa Samples December 21, 2012 at 9:38 am

Next time you do something like this I would love to be involved.

2 modernmami December 21, 2012 at 10:14 am

Definitely! It would be great to do another effort like this one. 🙂

3 mar@emy cooks December 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Great work, ladies and God Bless you for reaching out, that is awesome it is good to know that others care as well. Compassion is a Big word, giving is BEAUTIFUL!

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