“There is definitely an increase in the spirit of kindness and giving in the community this year,” said Grethel Mosely as she sat in a room filled with wrapped and unwrapped toys, gifts, and an assortment of groceries set for what is now the annual Christmas morning treat for the less fortunate in Homestead.
In 2013 a quartet of Caribbean women formed Nostalgic Caribbean, Inc., for the purpose of planning “typical Caribbean style Christmases for Caribbean nationals who longed to return home to spend Christmas in their respective homelands, but were unable to.” However Mosely and Trinidadian born Victoria Medes said last year something special evolved when they saw the joy in the faces of those whom the group gave gifts and fed at the Christmas brunch. “The appreciation of these people as they unwrapped their gifts and ate the meal we prepared touched so many hearts, that we now focus more on the giving than on bringing entertainment to these people.”
Mendes said this year something special happened, as unlike the past two years when members of the organization spent long hours calling urging people to donate toys, gift and food, this year people were calling from as far back as October asking where to drop off their donations. “This year we have collected so many gifts, especially for the women and children, that we have excess, which we already plan to put in storage for next year.”
There is similar reaction from several other groups who are involved in Christmas treats in various areas of South Florida this year.
“I don’t know if it is because more people are working, and can afford to give more or people are more conscious about the plight of the less fortunate, but people are definite more inclined to give this year,” said South Miami Pastor and community activist Leopold Burgess. He said he spent the first two weeks in December traveling around South Florida with Dominicans collecting gifts and food items to ship to Dominica “to bring holiday cheer to people who were impacted negatively by the earlier this year. People just knew this was the right thing to do. Nobody urged them to.”
Rudy Schaffe who heads the Men Fellowship at St. Luke The Physician Episcopal Church – home to a significant Caribbean-American congregation in West Kendall – said the benevolent spirit extends beyond Christmas. Schaffe said while the Men Fellowship focuses on helping the less fortunate men in the community with clothing, shaving kits, and other toiletries at a special treat on Christmas Day, “the members try to assist the more unfortunate in the community all year.”
Pastor Burgess said, “You would be amazed to know how much need there is in our local communities year around. Sometime, you know, people are criticized for only being givers during the annual Christmas and Kwanza seasons, but most people can only afford to give for a season. But this year I notice more people are interested in giving beyond the season. In the midst of what seems a cruel world, much kindness abounds. There are plenty good people still in the world.”