Cayman gives big at Christmas

With mounds of presents under the tree, and hordes of shoppers descending on stores to purchase gifts for their loved ones, the spirit of giving to family and friends is certainly alive at Christmas time. However, there are many others who may go without at Christmas. Thankfully, however, there are many organizations in Cayman that increase their charitable activity around December, giving the public ample opportunity each year to help out those in need.  

Meals on Wheels 

On Dec. 24, Meals on Wheels will be preparing and delivering a special “authentic Cayman Christmas dinner” to some 164 residents thanks to Island Heritage.  

“Our Christmas meal is Cayman-style beef – or conch for those who do not or cannot eat beef – rice and beans, cassava and breadfruit, with cornbread, lemonade and a vegetable soup,” said Beulah McField, executive director of Meals on Wheels.  

“Many would not have a Christmas dinner, but instead would eat something from a can, if they had any canned goods in the house,” McField said. 

Meals on Wheels also takes seniors to Camana Bay to watch the Parade of Lights from a reserved area and enjoy complimentary snacks, and also partners with St. Ignatius Church in order to deliver special Christmas gifts to some of their seniors. 

“We always try our hardest to make Christmas a very special time of the year for seniors,” said McField.  

Donations to the organization can be made by check payable to Meals on Wheels, or by donating non-perishable goods such as canned meats, canned fruits, juices, etc. Call 949-3905 for more information. 

Elisabeth Bise’s Toy Drive 

For several years, Elisabeth Bise, 14, has been organizing a toy drive, taking up the torch from her sister Victoria, who started the event. Organizations that benefit include the Department of Children and Family Services. 

“This annual toy drive helps to provide for many children who may not otherwise have something on Christmas morning,” said Jen Dixon, director at the Department of Children and Family Services. “It is also a special drive as it was started by a child who felt the need to do something to help children in need. 

“Over the years we have seen an increase in those in need throughout the year, and so at Christmas time persons in our community always go the extra mile to help in ensuring our children especially have something special to open on Christmas morning,” said Dixon. “We extend our sincere appreciation to all our very generous donors and in particular the Bise children who started this particular toy drive to help those in need in our community.” 

The Cayman Islands Hospital Pediatric Unit is another beneficiary of the drive. 

“The toy drive helps with making the hospital stay during Christmas a more pleasant experience,” said Layla Aitken, senior pediatric nurse at the hospital. “When Elisabeth comes, she brings toys for the children who have been admitted onto the unit. She also leaves toys for the children who stay on Christmas Day.”  

Bise’s toy drive also benefits the ward long after Christmas. “Elisabeth last year donated an infant swing which has been extremely useful for the babies and parents on the ward,” said Aitken. “She also gave us child-friendly plates, bowls and cutlery which have helped by making the meals a more enjoyable experience, similar to home.”  

For more information, email [email protected]

Trees4Life 

For the past two years, Jeff and Kelly McGlashan have imported North Carolina Fraser Firs to Cayman for the Christmas season, with proceeds going to the Zak Quappe Flight Scholarship, which was created in memory of the avid aviator and helps a young Caymanian pursue a Private Pilot License by attending the Cayman Flying Club and flight school in Florida.  

Last year, Sam Whitney was the first recipient of the scholarship. “The training I have been through in this scholarship has taught me to be patient and shown me the dedication you require to complete flight training at a high level,” said Whitney. “Training would be much more difficult without the support I’ve received from everyone who is involved in this scholarship.” 

The scholarship fund also receives money from organized events and donations. 

“I think this scholarship has taught me responsibility and I would encourage anyone who has a passion for flying to apply,” said Whitney. “You have an amazing amount of support from everyone in the scholarship and it has been an honor for me to go through this scholarship.” 

For information, email [email protected]

ARK 

This year, Acts of Random Kindness undertook its annual “Giving is Receiving” campaign. More than 3,000 blue bags are given to companies and individuals island-wide to be filled with food, gifts and/or food vouchers. More than 80 volunteers collect, sort and deliver these donations to families directly assisted by ARK, as well as those identified by the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre and schools and community groups. Last year the campaign provided a minimum of five bags and up to 12 bags of groceries, gifts and food vouchers for more than 470 people. 

ARK works throughout the year to provide food, power and water to people in need, and launches the “Giving is Receiving” campaign during the Christmas season. 

“We feel it’s very important to remember the less fortunate, always, but especially at Christmas time because it can be especially lonely and miserable for them in the knowledge that they can’t provide food or gifts for their children. It’s a very real and painful reality for many parents,” said Tara Nielsen, co-founder of ARK. “The campaign clearly makes a tremendous difference to a great number of children and their mothers and grandmothers. The kindness of strangers brings them hope, and their children smiles, laughter and Christmas cheer.” Call 323-2287 for more information on how to donate. 

Cayman 27 

Nearly 20 years ago, Cayman 27 and The Department of Children and Family Services teamed up to create “Cayman 27’s Christmas for Kids,” which ensures every child in Cayman has a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year. 

Many children do not get to participate in many festive events in the run up to Christmas, and that is where Christmas for Kids comes into play. 

“With the help of our generous sponsors, Cayman 27 hosts a party at Camana Bay each December,” said April Cummings, broadcast general manager at Cayman 27/CITN Productions. “Cayman 27 staff and on-air personalities donate their time and the day is filled with fun activities for children under the care of Social Services including arts and crafts, a trip to the movies and a visit from Santa. There is an additional cash contribution which assists in purchasing necessities for the DCFS throughout the year.” 

The initiative makes a huge difference to children in Cayman at Christmas. 

To donate, email Cayman 27 at [email protected]

Camana Bay 

Kicking off at the end of November in conjunction with the Christmas tree lighting, “Camana Bay Christmas Give” aids the initiatives of many hard-working organizations, including ARK, as Camana Bay is the official headquarters for the “Giving is Receiving” food and gift drive. 

The public can take part by purchasing a gift for a child in need at The Discovery Centre Wish Tree, donating money at the central donation station, picking up a shopping bag from The Discovery Centre for ARK’s Giving is Receiving initiative, donating to Feed our Future by purchasing a $1 North Pole stamp and sending a letter to Santa, purchasing a photo packa
ge at Picture This with traditional or Caribbean Santa and having $1 donated to the Give, or participating in the charitable Santa Run or Santa Paws. Camana Bay matches all Christmas Give fund contributions and donates to ARK for food vouchers. 

“During our busy and hurried days, we are often reminded during the holidays that the magic of Christmas begins with giving. Each year the Give aims to provide special and convenient opportunities to spread holiday cheer for those in need,” said Ken Hydes of Dart. 

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