Christmas Exchange

Although it’s just the beginning of 2011, there are some people that are already getting ready for Christmas 2011. This week’s Cause of the Week is a wonderful charity that helps children in need. The charity is called Christmas Exchange.

How did the whole idea come about?

We are a charity whose mission it is to provide assistance to families and individuals who face economic hardship. This includes helping these families with the purchase of school supplies. Education is a major factor that plays into the future success of an individual, and since public education is a right, we felt it was our duty to help ensure that children of low-income families have a positive experience when attending school. For some children, attending school can be very difficult due to economic reasons. When their parents cannot afford to purchase even the most basic school supplies, these children can feel different from their schoolmates. This sensation of not “fitting in” can cause these children to begin attending school on an irregular basis, to drop out of school, or to decide not to enroll at all. So we chose to provide programming that would help these children have a positive school experience by providing them with school supplies. We decided that the first fundraiser we would hold to support this program would be our 3rd Annual Caring and Sharing Charity Auction on March 8th.
Why is this cause close to your heart? Why should others support it?

Have you ever seen the face of a child when a light-bulb finally goes on because they have learned and understood something new? Their eyes light up and moments later, they are off, eagerly sharing their discovery with the world. This is an experience that should be had by children no matter their financial situation in life. And in order to have the opportunity to experience these types of discoveries, they need to know that they are equal to the students within their school community. If they feel at all different because their parents cannot afford to purchase new school supplies for them, these children may become negative about their school experience. By helping children from low-income families receive the proper tools they need for school, we can provide them with the opportunity to experience discovery, and the confidence they need to be motivated about school. With confidence, a child feels like they can do anything or be anyone. Every child deserves to feel this way. That’s why our programming includes helping children from low-income families, and that’s why others should support our cause by attending the 3rd Annual Caring and Sharing Charity Auction. Our goal is to raise $70,000 for our school program, and we need all the help we can get!

Do you have any other events or fundraisers that you would like others to know about?
In March we will be kicking off our 2nd Annual Christmas Ornament design competition. Artists can submit their designs to this competition, and in April, a well-known artist within the Ottawa community will choose the top three ornament designs. After, these designs are uploaded to our website so the public can vote for the best design. The winner gets their design produced into ornaments, which we then sell to raise funds for the other programs that our charity runs.

What advice would you give to others that might like to take on such an amazing endeavor?
You need to be passionate about your cause, but you also need to be a good planner. Holding an event like a charity auction takes a lot of planning—to schedule the venue, the speakers, to solicit donations for the silent and live auctions, and especially to encourage people to attend your event. So you should be an organized individual. Having a large social network can really help your cause as well.

How has social media helped your organization?
Our organization has only recently started using social media to promote ourselves. Twitter and Facebook have certainly helped us to get our name out there, and it has allowed us to connect with a younger generation. We still have a lot to learn regarding the effective use of social media though.

What do you have planned for the future of Christmas Exchange?

In addition to providing direct assistance, our charity manages a database that tracks the number of individuals and families seeking Christmas and school supply assistance. Over 300 community organizations and social services agencies send us the names of applicants they know need help, which we then connect with organizations looking to provide aid. Other organizations, such as Shepherds of Good Hope, also send us the names of the individuals and families they intend to provide with assistance. With our database, we sort through these names to ensure that all the families and individuals listed are receiving help, and to make sure that they only receive help from one organization at a time—thereby preventing duplicates. This service saves the community over $700,000 each year, allowing all donations to go to where they are most needed. At the moment, we run this service for Christmas and school supply assistance programs, but we would like to expand this service to help organizations that provide other types of programs as well.

In the near future, we will also be re-branding the organization with an overall umbrella name under which our Database and our Christmas and School Supply Assistance programs will run.

More information about the event:

This year the auction will be held on Tuesday, March 8th, 2011. Our goal is to raise $70,000 in order to provide children from low-income families with school supplies. The event will feature a silent auction, followed by a delicious three-course meal, and ending with an exhilarating live auction led by CTV’s Michael O’Byrne. A list of auction items can be found at http://caringandsharing.ca/items.php with some of the most significant items including a Sunday Brunch for 6 to 8 people with Gay Cook and Grete Hale at their historic home on Fuller Street; two gift certificates (worth $500) for four green fees and two power carts at Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club; and two Christmas ornaments of original design depicting the Peace Tower, made from the copper of the Parliament Building roof (limited edition, sold out item). We will also be holding a raffle, which, for the winner, will mean two tickets to anywhere WestJet airlines flies. If people are interested in purchasing tickets to the event, they can visit https://www.christmas-exchange.com/custom/tickets.php

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