With Christmas being known as the season of giving, some are gifting their time and effort as they forgo their own holiday break to help others.
Roseanna Boyd is a regular volunteer in Greenhill, N.S., and president of the Hants County Christmas Angels Society, a charity she was introduced to when she herself needed help more than two decades ago as a single parent who couldn’t afford Christmas. Randy Holmes is also a single parent and gives up his Christmas Day, as he dons his Santa Claus suit to bring presents to the doors of struggling families with Santa’s Angels in Charlottetown, P.E.I.
Both have made it a Christmas tradition to volunteer to help families enjoy a holiday free of stress and full of joy. They both also agree helping is now what makes their Christmas special. “It’s given my family a different outlook as we give back together. Christmas is still exciting, but it’s different — it’s about something else. And I’m just so glad they enjoy giving back, too,” says Boyd.
Helping out in Hants County
The Hants County Christmas Angels Society provides specific presents and gift cards for presents or groceries to children and their families who otherwise might not get a Christmas. “Every child deserves to wake up Christmas morning with some kind of gift and their parents deserve to feel relief and get help with that,” says Boyd.
Boyd understands more than most what it feels like to be a parent worried about providing Christmas for their children, as she was faced with that challenge as a single mother in 1994. As a single stay-at-home mother, Boyd headed fundraising campaigns for her children’s school activities and frequent trips to the IWK Health Centre.
She joined the Hants County Christmas Angels Society in 2016 and is now president. And even now that her financial stress has eased, she remains extensively involved in the Hants County community and was recognized with a provincial award for it.
“Fundraising was a necessity for us … and eventually that spread to Christmas, too,” says Boyd, who believes that giving back gives people a better sense of what Christmas was about before it became commercialized. “If we volunteer, we realize we don’t need the expensive gifts and we see that the simplest things can make people the most happy.”
Christmastime in Charlottetown
Holmes got his start with Santa’s Angels in 2012, when he was approached by charity founder and lifelong friend Kenny Zakem — “the true angel,” says Holmes — who asked him to volunteer as Santa.
Holmes set out to find the Santa suit he now dons to deliver food, presents and everyday essentials to families who receive a little holiday help. The Christmas Day visits are often a surprise for the children, whose parents haven’t yet told them Santa will be visiting them personally.
“The surprises are definitely the best part. The kids just can’t believe that Santa is coming to their house to hang out with them on Christmas,” says Holmes. He says the number of visits grows each year and that the charity’s budget is now around $50,000 per year, meaning thousands of people in the Charlottetown area can be helped.
He’s a single dad and says helping out means he misses Christmas Day each year, but he says his daughter, Abbigale, doesn’t mind and even tagged along one year. He gets emotional as he describes what it’s like to help kids enjoy Christmas.
“Going in and seeing the kids can be mentally exhausting — some of the things, you see, have nothing. But it’s all worthwhile to see people enjoying Christmas who’d otherwise not be able to,” he says. “I don’t mind giving up my Christmas if it means I get to do this.”
This content originally appeared in TIDINGS, a SaltWire custom publishing title.