(Delmarvanow.com) -- What started as one woman’s wish to make Christmas more meaningful has grown into a Shore-wide fundraiser.
The Christmas Cheer Drive for the Eastern Shore Coalition Against Domestic Violence is in full swing, raising money and collecting gifts for families staying at the shelter.
Since 2014, Melanie Parker has organized the fundraiser, helping women and children realize their Christmas hopes.
“We all pull together to help make this the best holiday season ever to what has probably been the worst year of their life,” Parker said.
“It’s something that is very near and dear to my heart,” she said.
Parker launched the holiday fundraiser in 2014, when she said she was feeling “bah-humbug” about the holidays.
“I didn't want to be part of the big consumer Christmas. I wanted my holiday efforts to be meaningful,” she said. “I started thinking, ‘Who all could need help that maybe doesn’t get a lot of light shed on them in the holiday season?’”
She began by making four “Freedom Starter” kits of shampoo, toothpaste and other hygiene productions for the shelter, which grew to over 100 kits, thanks to donations from Eastern Shore residents.
“I couldn’t have been prouder of our community for jumping on board and pitching (in) to create this Christmas miracle,” Parker said.
After that first year, she asked Eastern Shore Coalition Against Domestic Violence what donors could do to help during the next holiday season.
“That’s when they told us about the wish list,” Parker said.
Each family housed at the shelter writes a wish list for Christmas each year, she said.
In 2016, the Christmas Cheer Drive raised around $1,000, plus donated gifts, to make 13 families’ lists come true, Parker said.
She hopes to do the same for the five families at the shelter this year.
Together with her husband, friend Leesa Kelly and co-workers at Eastern Shore Animal Hospital — whom Parker calls her “wrapping elves” — she’s already raised more than $500 toward the $750 goal for 2017.
Members of the community can help by donating items from the wish list, available on the “Christmas Cheer for ESCADV” Facebook event page, or making contributions online.
Donations can be dropped off at Parker's Tire and Service, in Cheriton; Seaside Consignment and Munchkins Boutique, in Exmore; Eastern Shore Animal Hospital, in Painter; Atlantic Animal Hospital, in Accomac; and Benjamin Franklin Plumbing and Mister Sparky, Oak Hall.
Cash and Walmart gift cards are also welcomed.
GoFundMe donations must be received by Dec. 10. Cash or gift cards should be donated by Dec. 11, and other gifts, by Dec. 15.
“If there’s any money left over ... then that money we will use to go toward housekeeping items or anything else the shelter needs,” Parker said.
The Shore coalition serves survivors of domestic abuse from both Accomack and Northampton counties.
The shelter houses between 15 and 25 survivors and their children at any given time and provides counseling and other support services to scores more, said Shelley Strain, the coalition's executive director.
“I think a lot of people on the Shore don’t know they exist, so it makes me feel good to get the word out there,” Parker said.
CLICK HERE to donate to the Christmas Cheer Drive by Dec. 10. Search “Christmas Cheer for ESCADV” on Facebook for wish list items.