The Holiday Season is a time of merriment and joy, a time to be spent celebrating with family around the dinner table, eating lots of food and, of course, giving and receiving presents. For many families, however, this time of year is a time of struggle. Whether due to financial stress, divorce or illness, there are whole communities unable to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year. In Hartford, Connecticut, Mike Stacey saw a need in his community that he was determined to meet. “The first year that I called something Christmas Wish was 2004, and at that point, I was just using leftover station prizes and matching those up with families in need,” he says. A member of the 100.5 WRCH Morning Show, Stacey has always had a desire to help people and give back. Originally studying to be a Catholic Priest, Stacey says that when fate handed him his wife, he had to go with plan B, turning to radio which has now given him a 30+ year career that he loves.
Meeting The Need
WRCH’s public platform coupled with his passion for helping others gave Stacey the perfect opportunity to fulfill his desire to serve his community. “[Listeners would write] letter[s] to the radio station that they needed groceries or their kids [needed] new clothing or winter coats, or even if they needed toys because of any kind of condition like divorce or unemployment or health issues. . .I would just match them up and they would come into the radio station and pick up those gift cards as if they were a prize winner.” This went on for a few years before Mike ran into some difficulty – all the station winners were coming to claim their prizes, leaving nothing left for him to give to families in need. “I was sitting at my desk with all the letters from all the families having absolutely no idea how I was going to fulfill any of those wishes,” he says, “and then I received a couple of phone calls from listeners who said they wanted to get involved with Christmas Wish.” For the following few years, listeners wanting to help would “adopt” families in need, and, making sure to keep families’ privacy, Mike would pair a family in need with one wanting to help give back.
The desire of the Greater Hartford Community,
however, continued to grow exponentially, eventually making the Christmas Wish operation too big for their “adopt-a-family” format. From there, Christmas Wish CT has grown and grown, officially registering itself as a 501(C)3 nonprofit and creating an annual Holiday Party that has allowed the community to give back on a larger scale than ever before.
“The thing that makes us unique,” says Stacey, “is we don’t just take a child and say okay we have a boy or a girl and this is their age and have them go pick out a toy that’s appropriate for that age, each of these children fills out a letter to Santa clause and they are individually shopped for.” Having to move locations three times due to their growth, Christmas Wish CT has helped spread holiday cheer to nearly 5,000 people in the Greater Hartford area and beyond.
Community Businesses Give Back
Helping accommodate the rapid growth, local businesses supplied tremendous support.
“Lux Bond and Green Jewelers was one of the first companies to come forward and join us,” says Stacey. “Before. . . it was mostly just listeners trying to write individual checks, but John (Green) stepped forward, and became a community leader.”
“We were well aware of a whole community that was not being able to celebrate Christmas,” says John Green, President of Lux Bond and Green Jewelers, noting that Christmas Wish CT just seemed like a natural fit for the company, whose business centers around love, giving and celebrations. Their involvement, though, goes beyond financial support. “It’s not just that were giving them a check,” Green adds, “were actually witnessing [the impact].” Lux Bond and Green’s committed staff attend the organization’s Christmas Party every year, volunteering and providing support wherever it is needed. “It’s amazing to see all the bags lined up with all the kids names and all the volunteers,” says Andrea Mascaro, Lux Bond and Green’s Advertising Director. “It’s just an incredible event.”
“It goes back to it taking a village,” adds Green, “I think for so many families when it comes to the holidays, whatever the holiday and whatever their religion might be. . . it’s not only that they see Santa Clause but they see all these people that are so happy to talk to them.”
Keeping the Spirit of Christmas 365 Days a Year
During this time, the Christmas Wish CT community was becoming bigger and bigger. “We graduated from a few families carrying bags to the radio station to actually having a semi-tractor trailer filled with all the bags [of gifts],” says Stacey. “We now have 5 or 6 busses every year and we have domestic violence shelters in CT, we have homeless shelters in CT and we still get letters, now by the internet from families all over the state that are in need.”
Perhaps one of the most surprising things about Christmas Wish CT is that the organization has no employees, meaning every person involved in the operation does so on his or her own time. “We have a [particular] family that’s been Christmas wish volunteers for a lot of years,” says Stacey. “[The couple] actually met in widow support… and they each had kids…..kind of like a modern day brady bunch family,” he continues. The blended family now serves as Mr. and Mrs. Clause at Christmas Wish CT’s annual party, with their children helping out as elves every year.
A Culture of Giving
Giving back has been an integral part of Lux Bond and Green since its inception, and will forever be at the forefront of the company’s operation. “It’s a culture,” says John Green, “and carrying on traditions that were started in 1898 . . . understanding that community becomes better when people [give back].”
When the Mohegan Sun store manager lost her niece Sarah Delano to a horrific car accident a few months before she was supposed to get married, the team at Lux Bond and Green wanted to do something that would support the community and honor her name. Finally deciding on the Mystic Seaport where she had worked , the store manager helped form a scholarship in her name with financial support from LBG . “Every one of our communities we look and discuss ‘what can we do to really help?’” says Green. “It doesn’t need to just be the passion of Marc and John Green and the Green family, if our managers or staff have a passion about something that’s what we encourage.”
Lux Bond and Green has also been heavily involved in the Make-A-Wish Foundation, this year helping fulfill two wishes, the first being that of a twelve-year-old girl with cancer who dreamt of visiting France.
“They asked us to be the location where she received the news for all the folks they were trying to get together,” says John Green, who then tasked his West Hartford team with hosting the gathering and creating a bracelet for this young lady with a charm of the Eiffel Tower. The second wish was that of another young girl with cancer whose wish was to see her parents get married, with the Lux Bond and Green team creating custom-made bands for the wedding ceremony.
In addition to Christmas Wish CT, Lux Bond and Green and its associates have been involved in volunteering and financially supporting The Westport CT Library, St. Francis Hospital Foundation, Make-A-Wish, Berkshire Hills Music Academy, The Westport Playhouse, Work Vessels for Vets and many more, and their giving will only continue to grow as does their business proving “Diamonds truly Do Good.”
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