Getting into the Christmas spirit

 I have hosted many charity events over the years.  I’m probably asked because I’m so loud that people have no choice but to listen to me – we all have our various talents.  It is also an amazing talent to have the energy of these organizers who raise funds tirelessly for numerous worthwhile causes.  Upon one of my recent Saturday visits to the supermarket, I encountered no less than four different people vying for donations, and whilst some members of the shopping public seemed a little taken aback by this sudden rush of attention, I had to give the volunteers their due.  As we approach the season of giving, we should support local charities either monetarily or in some other fashion.  It all begins at home.

Back before we had television stations the NCVO used to conduct their annual fundraising efforts from the heart of the operation, otherwise known as Radio Cayman.  This would reach out to all the homes and businesses via a central nervous system of volunteer drivers who were positioned in the various districts, ready to go door-to-door if necessary to pick up promised donations.  You wouldn’t imagine it was gripping stuff as far as programming was concerned, but everyone on the island tuned in to listen to updates on the total raised thus far, local entertainment, and Olive Miller et al thanking as many names as they could in-between requests for clearer instructions to so-and-so’s residence so a lost driver could find it.  There were no mobile phones back then and very few official street names, so directions were often given in the “Go-past-Miss-Annie’s-house-then-turn-left-at-the-mango-tree” vein.  Operators manned the lines, and at one point or the other you’d hear your name and donation read out over the air.  As a child it was terribly exciting to listen for it.

These days the format is as personal and community-driven as it was back then, but now it is on television and thankfully is still going strong.  The NCVO raised a record amount this year thanks to the efforts of all involved.

I usually assist the Red Cross with the entertainment for their annual dinner.  Putting together one of these dinners is a major undertaking and very much relies on suppliers donating goods and services, and companies and private citizens purchasing tickets.  Back when I was involved in concert promotion, my company used to bring in top tribute artists from all over the world.  We were in the business of trying to make money.  The operative word there is “trying.”  Every planned concert had its trials and tribulations; one of the most memorable being an event with an artist who required a tray of unprocessed cheese backstage.  It was pouring rain outside – Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse torrential – and there I was, driving about, trying to track down chunks of Gouda and Aged Cheddar.  We were worried about ticket sales due to the unrelenting weather and numerous other things.  It was a rollercoaster ride every time, and after a few years of emotionally riding Ol’ Smoky through endless loop-de-loops, we decided to give our cardiac systems a break.  Charities don’t have that luxury.  They have to come up with the goods every year, trying to invent new and interesting ways to get the word out about their mission and entice the public to be generous.  They go through all the nail-biting moments, not for personal gain, but to hopefully raise enough for vital budgets and expenses to keep them going in the year ahead.

The most recent event I hosted was the fashion show portion of the Doggies and Diamonds dinner, courtesy of the Humane Society.  It was an evening of glitz and splendor with every seat taken and everyone having fun.  Hundreds of dazzling donated clothes lined the racks, and what ensued was a shopfest for gleeful attendees who pounced on bags, shoes and outfits at remarkable prices.  At the end of the night all got bang for their buck, which went straight to the coffers of a great cause.  From the main organizers to the ladies in charge of the fashion show, they managed to make it all seem effortless and a well-oiled machine, but I know the work that went into it.  All I had to do was strut out on stage, look stunningly beautiful (ahem) and talk solidly for about 45 minutes.  My job was a piece of cake compared to everyone else’s.  They managed to raise a good amount of money, but really if you had put an hourly rate on all the volunteers’ time, they probably wouldn’t have broken even.

Over Christmas we are bound to see representatives from many well-known charitable organizations such as the Cancer Society, HospiceCare, the Humane Society, Rotary, NCVO, the Pink Ladies and others asking for donations or offering to wrap gifts for a small fee.  We should all make a point of doing what we can to support them.  Although it’s been a hard year for the island what with the economic situation and the rise in crime, people’s enormous capacity to give still gives me hope that we haven’t lost that sense of community.  When I call musicians, restaurants and companies to ask for their assistance with one fundraiser or the next, almost 100% of them immediately step up to the plate to help.  It isn’t a fun job, getting on the phone and asking for things for free, but being in Cayman makes it much easier – trust me.

Everyone is tightening their belts at the moment, so if you can’t give money, give your time.  There are dogs to be walked and Meals on Wheels to be delivered!  Working to make others’ lives better may not put cash in your bank account, but it will certainly put a spring in your step and a song in your heart.  I believe at this time of the year it could be called Getting into the Christmas Spirit.