And just like that...
It was weeks before Christmas 2006 and my mom and I realized we hadn't yet chosen a family to support during the holiday. In years past, we had randomly chosen a name from the "giving tree" at church or from our local post office. Well, this year we waited too long. By the time we decided to gather a few names of local children in need, we learned that all kids had been accounted for. While we were certainly glad to see the support of those in our community, we were left with a "what now" feeling. We decided to reach out to a women's shelter in our community, hoping maybe there would be a child (or few) that could use our assistance. Rather than buying for specific children, we decided to support - even if it was a small gift - every woman in the shelter which, at that time, was 13. Long story short - after sharing our plan with a local grocery store, we received 13 $100 gift cards from such grocery store and enough "Happy Meal" and "Value Meal" gift cards from McDonald's for EACH resident (adults and kids!). WOW, our hearts were full! My mom (Linda), mother-in-law (Sheila), and I completed each package with gloves, hats, lotion, etc. and delivered to the shelter.
December 2007 came around and we presented our initiative to the same grocery store and McDonald's, this year being that we would choose a different group to support - the Senior Citizens of Hendricks County. Our request was granted, which allowed us to fill five (5) large boxes full of groceries and delivered them to 5 families, just in time for the holiday.
With each holiday season, we went through the same motions - requesting support from our local businesses. We legally established our organization as a 501(c)(3) organization, making it an "official" nonprofit organization.
A few years later, and with the help of Hollie Bear, Audra's sister-in-law (and good friend!), and a few other friends, we also expanded our missions to include "grieving packages" for children who were experiencing loss of a parent or loved one. Each package was personalized for the child to include a journal, book about grief, a memento to remind them of their loved one, and special items for additional comfort (e.g. gift card for manicure, etc).
And because we were now a legal "nonprofit organization", we were comfortable with requesting donations, in the form of monetary or tangible, from local businesses to allow us to complete our holiday mission for each year.