Friday, December 4th, 2020

Shopper Client Stories


CHESAPEAKE'S HELPING HANDS

Making Christmas merry and bright for underprivileged children

by Rob Lauer


Each holiday season, volunteers at Chesapeake’s Helping Hands fill a transit truck with toys for underprivileged children

Each holiday season, volunteers at Chesapeake’s Helping Hands fill a transit truck with toys for underprivileged children

To please a child is a sweet and lovely thing that warms one's heart and brings its own reward." So wrote L. Frank Baum, author of  The Wizard of Oz, over a century ago. Anyone who has seen the delight in a child's eyes as they open a Christmas gift knows the truth of Baum's saying.  One of the Holiday Season's greatest joys is experienced through the giving of such gifts. For some Chesapeake families, however, financial circumstances and other hardships prevent them from giving.

“Growing up, my family wasn't as fortunate as we are now,'" Chesapeake native George Spence recalls. “I know what it's like to be in that place, so being where I am now, I realize that I have the opportunity to help others."

Where George now finds himself is being the co-owner of a very successful business—Chesapeake Pest Control. Along with co-owner Adam Wallace, George is committed to helping Chesapeake families who are less fortunate.

“Adam and I have been members of the Kiwanis Club of Chesapeake since 2013," George says. “With the Kiwanis, we've been involved in a lot of local projects aimed at helping people and serving the community. A few years ago, we got involved with Toys for Tots. Adam and I said, ‘Let's get two shopping carts and just fill them up with toys to donate.' It was really cool! Toys for Tots is a wonderful organization! We were so impressed with what they do for kids every Christmas season that Adam and I began asking ourselves, ‘Why don't we start our own initiative to collect toys for local underprivileged children during the holidays.'"

Rather than merely filling some shopping carts, George and Adam decided to take a transit truck and fill it with toys. They christened their new program, Fill the Transit, and enlisted the Chesapeake Kiwanis Club and the Chesapeake Jubilee as supporters. Eager to help underprivileged children in Chesapeake, they reached out to Joel Brown, the Lead Pastor of Church at Hampton Roads. The church had ‘adopted' the Harbor North neighborhood in Chesapeake and was committed to working with children and youth there. With Pastor Brown's support, George and Adam decided that the toys they collected through Fill the Transit would go to the children of Harbor North.

“Adam and I began asking ourselves, ‘Why don't we start our own initiative to collect toys for local underprivileged children during the holidays.'"
               —George Spence



Some of the toys collected

Some of the toys collected


The first year of Fill the Transit was not only a success, but it added a massive measure of holiday cheer to George and Adam's Christmas Season. That cheer is on display in photos taken at the time of the duo wearing broad smiles and Santa Claus hats while standing next to their toy-filled truck. Over the next three years, Fill the Transit quickly grew from filling one transit truck with toys to a full-blown neighborhood event for the entire family.  

“We set up tents on the Saturday before Christmas and put the toys in them," George explains. “We have one tent filled with toys for boys while the other tent is filled with toys for girls. In each tent, the toys are sorted by the age groups for which they're intended.  This makes it very easy for parents to come in and find toys for their kids. Meanwhile, we have Santa on hand so that the kids can visit with him while their parents are picking out toys. Last year, we started taking monetary donations to buy toys and were able to fill a whole trailer instead of a transit truck. We were even approached by bigger companies who wanted to make large donations, but they didn't because we weren't a 501c3 charity."

Never one to be deterred, George immediately worked to remedy the situation and grow their charitable capacity. “We applied and created Chesapeake's Helping Hands as a 501c3 nonprofit organization," George smiles. “Helping Hands is a community-based charity that is committed to bettering the lives of local families and individuals by raising funds to finance a wide variety of charitable projects. Now we have the opportunity to increase our outreach and meet other needs in the community as we see them."

An example of that increased outreach was Chesapeake's Helping Hands' recent involvement in a fundraiser for a local family whose child is fighting cancer.
 
“Because we are now designated as a 501c3 nonprofit organization, we can sell beer and wine at fundraisers," George says. “So, on weekends during this past Halloween season, we set up a beer and wine shop at Chubby's Pumpkin Festival on South Battlefield Boulevard. The turnout was fantastic, and we helped raise several thousand dollars to help this family."

Now that Halloween is over and the Holiday Season is fast approaching, George, Adam, and the volunteers at Chesapeake's Helping Hands are once again focusing their efforts on collecting toys for its annual Fill the Transit effort.

Rather than merely filling some shopping carts, George and Adam decided to take a transit truck and fill it with toys.


 “We've invited a lot of other local businesses to get involved," George explains. “A number of them will have toy drop-off boxes on site where people can drop off toys. We'll collect the toys weekly.  If people want more information on when and where the drop-off boxes will be, they can visit the Chesapeake's Help Hands Facebook page. And of course, they can always call us anytime at our office if they want more information or want to get involved."
 
Chesapeake's Helping Hands invites everyone to lend a hand and experience the reward of making a child's Holiday Season joyous and bright.


At Chubby’s Pumpkin Festival, Chesapeake’s  Helping Hands ran a beer and wine shop to raise money for a local family whose child is fighting cancer

At Chubby’s Pumpkin Festival, Chesapeake’s Helping Hands ran a beer and wine shop to raise money for a local family whose child is fighting cancer