The Christmas Gala ~ Gift of Giving All Year 'Round
by Cate Murway
The world says “Be a go-getter”…. The heart says “Be a go-GIVER!”
“Our Angel Program is all about helping a senior feel loved, remembered and even cared for.”
Cheryl [Anglicized version of French name Cherie meaning "beloved"] Ann [Zamichieli] Campbell always has a pretty difficult job ahead of herself. The community has a hard time understanding how bad it is for so many. Why does it matter?
Isolated seniors suffer more rapid physical decline, more serious health consequences and oftentimes, an earlier death.
The Christmas Gala, a BBBA member named the ‘Best of Bucks Charity’ provides donated gifts and life-affirming personal interaction to isolated seniors, halting their spiral into loneliness.
Cheryl is a long-time Bristol Township resident from Burlington, NJ. She graduated from Bucks County Community College in 2013 with an Associate’s of Arts degree, but this entrepreneur and her husband, Marine veteran, CPL E-4 James George, formerly a welder/ fabricator / truck driver along with their children invest endless hours in the philanthropic 501(c)3 program that she founded called The Christmas Gala. It has such a transformative impact on so many forgotten seniors.
Cheryl started it all working from her home, out of her living room for 5 years, but has recently moved the organization that serves low income senior citizens throughout Bucks County to its own office space on Radcliffe Street and has recruited more than 40 volunteers as the full-time executive director.
She resigned her job working for the IU as a teacher’s assistant when her family generously offered to help her this year to make this venture profitable. “I needed to jump in whole- heartedly. When you maintain something from a distance, it only stays at level.”
Cheryl Campbell received a distinguished recognition while being honored in May with the BCCC “Alumni Community Service Award”. Her picture will grace the wall in the college for the remainder of the year.
The Campbells have 3 children and 4 grandchildren.
President/ Founder/ Executive Director Cheryl Campbell ’s Board is comprised of friends and family.
Jaime Lynne, recovering from breast cancer, serves as VP on the board while networking and accepting gifts at the office. Executive Secretary, Brittany Ann, an English major, “corrects my paperwork and my speeches”. Brittany also oversees decorations for their big fundraising event and tirelessly plans along with her mom, to ensure its success. Timothy James is a “rigger”, a person who specializes in the lifting and moving of extremely large or heavy objects, often with the assistance of a crane or derrick or chain hoists, and he drives 18 wheelers but still offers his help to his mom.
Cheryl’s sister, Miriam, serves as the Board Project Manager.
Board Members Carol Taylor, Svetlana Barash, Wade Rice and Lynn Montemuro; Jersey Division, Sharon Farina; E.C.H.O.E.S. Committee Board Member, Lisa Ross; and Angel Committee Board Member, Lori Crain complete the team, along with many volunteers, embarking on the journey to impact the lives of the elderly.
Cheryl had always had a passion to work with the youth. She ran a home based company called “Family Day Care” and assisted special needs children while working in “Wildwood” at the Woods Schools.
When her husband became disabled, she secured a number of retail “gigs”.
Her life has always been quite complicated. She took care of her mother, Miriam who became ill, dying rather young from a lung disease. Then Cheryl assumed the responsibility of caring for her grandmother, Matilda “Tilly” Kline for 16 years until she passed away. Cheryl has also survived a brain tumor.
For many years, she hosted an annual family Christmas party at her home.
It was during the first Christmas holidays without her grandmother that her mindset turned to caring for seniors. Cheryl met a 92-year-old woman while shopping at the food store. “It was 9:00pm and I heard her ask to call a “cabbie”." She offered to drive her and her groceries to her home. “The woman was so sad, she had no one, everyone had died. This was when I decided that I needed to help.”
The Christmas Gala’s “Angel Program” has partnered with social workers and various organizations in Bucks County, supplying them with names and needs such as diapers, Depends, bladder control items, and Ensure throughout the year. They currently work with 25 organizations, any who work with the elderly, for referrals.
Diane Stafford was the first businesswoman to offer to provide display space for an “Angel tree” with tags containing a wish list at her “Curves” in Levittown. “Now there are at least 40 businesses that host a tree for the seniors and over 70 businesses that help collect donations. Some businesses just grab tags and they collect privately.”
Angel tags are available through the second week of December.
The “Angel tree” program is the heart of the organization. The team collects thousands of gifts, “$42,000 worth of product came through last year”, that are delivered to low income seniors, those who are all alone with no family, or those who are just in need.
“No one should sit by themselves at 96 years old without a gift!”
Cheryl and her team of almost 50 people, “all volunteers”, process, sort and inventory the donated gifts in the basement, check the sizes and assure that the gifts are all brand new and code each gift by the organization that sends forms with a client’s first name and last initial. Each bag is delivered with the person’s name on it.
St. Ephrem students perform community service processing gifts for those who did not provide a request form. Each will receive a homemade Christmas card with “goodies” in a gift bag and perhaps a blanket, so clients who don’t let them know what they want will still get a gift.
BCCC college students collect some of the stocking stuffers.
No one should live their last years without love and connection. No senior is left behind!
“Our mission is to fill every request that comes through.”
If you want kindness in the world, put it there!
Neshaminy National Honor Society student, Addison Rebecca “Addie” Eliason, NHS ‘19 earns some of her service hours helping The Christmas Gala. She and her twin brother Stephen Charles will be at the Christmas Gala table in front of Hem’s Auto explaining the program to everyone who will listen during the Bristol Christmas Parade on Saturday. Their younger sister, Charlotte Rae helped create a video announcing the “Angel tree” program and its drop off locations.
“Addie developed her own flyers”, shared Cheryl.
The flyers list gift suggestions and offer ideas but any donations are gratefully accepted.
Every single gift has the potential to change a life.
Addie is passionate about Community Service. “I’m lucky to live in such a nice area and I would like to give back!”
She is a member of the Interact Club, developing leadership skills while discovering the power of ‘Service Above Self’. “I do anything I can to volunteer and help”.
Addie is also involved in Neshaminy’s Service Learning. “I cook food and desserts and package the meals for ‘Aid for Friends’.”
Thank you for making a real difference Addison!
The group tries to help all seniors with their needs with additional programs for the elderly.
Their E.C.H.O.E.S. program assists seniors who require home help care.
The client hires the help and the bills go to Cheryl.
The E.P.I.C. Program [Extraordinary Problems , Immediate Care] provides for items that need to be bought, fixed, found or donated; assistance with extraordinary situations in which seniors are unfortunately placed, including electric bills piling up due to an unforeseen illness, or a problem with a broken heater or air conditioner. Referrals come from social workers, neighbors, and clients themselves.
So, this all costs money. The money doesn’t grow on the Angel trees.
“We have a signature fundraising event in December. It’s a beef-ed up ‘Beef and Beer’, a dressy affair.
Our 9th Annual Gala with a ‘Winter Woodland’ theme will be held December 2nd at Westaby Hall in Fairless Hills. This is our first year using social media.”
The bulk of the necessary monies hopefully will be made there. Tickets are $40.00/per person.
“We’re all about giving, so our Raffle is 50-25-25! The Christmas Gala gets 50% and 2 winners get 25%.”
A big shout out Thank You goes to “Boppin’ with the Big Guys” who donate their DJ talents.
This non-profit raises the money and gives it away to seniors in their community, focusing on low income and homebound seniors with a goal to help them maintain dignity and quality of life.
They remember those whom others have forgotten!
“Nothing is better than seeing all the volunteers’ faces when they see all the thank you notes from the seniors,” confirmed Cheryl.
Bristol Angel trees are available at Hems Truck & Auto, Radcliffe Insurance Group, Polka Dot Parlor, Trainpops Attic and Philly’s Phamous Bristol.
Please, reach out now to make that connection with lost and lonely seniors. You can help!
The 2017 Christmas Parade will be Saturday November 25th with a 1:00pm start. The parade runs from Farragut Avenue & Green Lane through Mill & Cedar Streets in Bristol Borough.
Hope to see you all there!
The Christmas Gala is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The official registration and financial information of The Christmas Gala may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Dept. of State by calling toll free (in PA) 1.800.732.0999.
The Christmas Gala
1228 Radcliffe Street
Bristol, PA 19007
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