Charity expands to St. Gabriel and expects to raise $90,000 for Christmas gifts
Hundreds of children and adults are expected to spend $40,000 to $50,000 Dec. 4 at a local Target store — and it’s not a repeat of last week’s Black Friday.
It’s the work of the St. Nick Fund, a growing charitable effort that has been sponsored by St. Edward Church for the last two years and expanded this year to St. Gabriel Church.
The parishes expect to raise about $90,000 by mid-December to buy Christmas presents for needy children. Volunteers are invited to help spend the money during massive shopping sprees. Afterward, parents from struggling families get to take the gifts home and play Santa Claus for their children.
“We are about getting as many people doing as many good things as we can,” said David Bohn, a member of St. Edward Church who started the charity with his wife Whitney. “So many people are looking for ways to help.”
To volunteer with the St. Nick Fund, “You don’t have to spend any money, just come out and shop and wrap presents. It gives everybody an opportunity” to do something good, he said.
In mid-November, more than 500 children from St. Edward and St. Gabriel parishes took some of the St. Nick Fund money shopping at a Wal-Mart store. They bought Christmas presents for 336 children of military families — based at Fort Campbell — who live in poverty.
“It was just magical to see all those children” shopping for other children in need, said Bohn.
The next two shopping days, set for Dec. 4 and 11, will benefit hundreds more families in need. In all, about 1,300 to 1,400 children will receive Christmas presents through the St. Nick Fund.
Richard McCauley, a member of the Men’s Club at St. Gabriel Church, said he wanted to adopt the project after attending a shopping day last year.
“That hooked us, to see them shopping,” he said. “The people were so upbeat. It’s very infectious.
“It’s really good medicine for the soul,” McCauley added. “It helps you remember what this holiday season is all about.”
The Bohns founded the charity five years ago in Western Kentucky after seeing the needs of people who live in the area around their lake house. They brought the project home to St. Edward a couple of years ago.
“It’s growing by leaps and bounds,” said Bohn, a father of four who is passionate about spreading Christmas cheer. He sees the charity as a way to bring the spirit of Christmas not only to needy families, but to the fund’s volunteers, too.
“We’re trying to be the kind of people we envision ourselves to be when we’re young,” he said. “At least at Christmas we can do that. It’s a time when we can do right. And people want to do it. It’s a means and an opportunity for people to do right.”
The shopping money is raised through individual donations, grants from Wal-Mart, Target and the City of Jeffersontown, and two fundraisers. St. Edward holds an annual dinner, dance and auction for Halloween, and St. Gabriel held a similar event last year for St. Patrick’s Day.
“Every penny that we raise goes to the families,” Bohn noted. “Even Wal-Mart donated the tape and bags (to wrap presents).”
Those who receive the gifts from the St. Nick Fund include families from several Catholic parishes who are struggling to make ends meet and others who have sought assistance at St. Edward’s and St. Gabriel’s St. Vincent de Paul conferences and at area community ministries, said Bohn.
“Even though we’re based in the J-town and Fern Creek areas, we’ll give to anyone,” he said. “Our goal is to reach the entire archdiocese with our mission work.
“I’m humbled, as I think most people would be, when you look out here and see all these people willing to help,” Bohn added. “The Men’s Club (at St. Gabriel) has bent over backward. It’s compounding everything we’re doing.”
McCauley said that at St. Gabriel’s Men’s Club meetings, “We’ve often asked ourselves, ‘Is there something more we can do for our community?’ Everybody was on board with it. We’ve got a lot of members who have spent a lot of time on this.”
The effort has spread throughout the parish, too, he said.
“We got close to $20,000 to $22,000 off the (St. Patrick’s Day) dance,” he said. “We had a live auction, and a lot of people donated money. We’re talking about doing other things — trivia nights, golf scrambles. And we’re going to look for corporate sponsors.
“We’d like to get on the scale that St. Edward is — get the whole school involved,” he said.
McCauley said the project also serves to educate children and adults at the parish.
“I think it’s great for the kids to see there is that need out there,” he said. “People live in a bubble, almost. I think people were shocked there were people in our own parish who needed help.”
While St. Gabriel hasn’t contributed as much money to the fund as St. Edward, he noted, “it’s really catching on.”
“People see the need,” he said. “They say with tough economic times you’re going to have trouble. But the opposite is true. The tough times mean people are more willing to give.”
Those who want to volunteer for the St. Nick Fund may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor