Stacie Lewis, who is married to NuTech DSM Darren Lewis, shares her Christmas Blessings with children in need.
“Do you have a Christmas tree? We don’t even have a Christmas Tree this year.”
Heartbreaking conversations like this with students at the local school—where she often volunteers and substitute teaches—gave Stacie Lewis an idea for how to help.
Stacie and Darren live in Clay City, IL—population about 1,000. Many in town have fallen on difficult times, and kids tend to bear the brunt. Most students in Clay City’s K–12 school are on free or reduced lunch. Many come to school in the winter without proper coats and shoes.
Stacie decided Christmas would be the perfect opportunity to help Clay City’s kids. She started Christmas Blessings last year as a way to provide what she calls a “magical Christmas” for every kid in town who desperately needed one—all the way up to the seniors in high school.
Stacie channeled her enthusiasm for the holiday and a deep sense of faith into Christmas Blessings. Her mission is to help every child experience the kind of magical Christmas—full of belief and love—that she created for her three kids throughout their childhoods.
Stacie started by working with the school nurse, superintendent and teachers—those who best know which students and families could use Christmas help. She sent a form and letter home, gently encouraging parents to take advantage of Christmas Blessings. “Sometimes, December can be a burden instead of just special family time,” her letter states. “Hopefully, we can turn this into a small blessing instead of a burden for your family.” Included with the letter is a Christmas wish list with space to fill in: things I want, things I need, things to wear and things to read. This ensures each kid will get a variety of gifts. “I want [families] to focus on each other and what family is all about and, of course, the reason we celebrate the season!” Stacie says.
With lists in hand, Stacie and her Secret Santas get to work. Each volunteer takes on at least one wish list, but many choose multiple kids. Shopping itself is an important part of the gift. The nearest mall is almost two hours away! Last year’s 24 Secret Santas purchase the gifts with their own money and donations. Some Secret Santas find their generosity overflowing. One volunteer last year purchased two bikes for a pair of siblings. When they were delivered, their father’s eyes filled with tears.
Stacie tries to ensure each child receives at least 3-5 gifts. Last year, the program served 90 kids, so there were hundreds of presents to wrap. Volunteers and Stacie’s family help.
Once gifts are wrapped and ready, the “magical” part begins. Stacie places the presents for each family into a large black trash bag and ties it up with a bow to look like a drop-off from Santa. Deliveries are made discreetly, to keep the presents a secret from the kids and maximize the magic on Christmas morning.
But Stacie remembers one delivery last year, where she could see small hands on the windows and detected some peeking eyes. She didn’t consider it a spoiler. “Sometimes the magic happens on Christmas morning,” Stacie says, “but sometimes, it is magical right during that moment.”
Last year’s program was such a success, Stacie started earlier on 2019 plans. By Thanksgiving, she had already distributed 70 wish lists to families. One of her Secret Santas has already pledged to shop for six kids. While Stacie likes to get lists back as early as possible, she will help families all the way up until Christmas. “Some families are too proud to send back the lists,” she says, “But then it will be two weeks before Christmas and they will ask, ‘Is it too late? I have a big electric bill and once I pay that, there won’t be anything left for Christmas.’ I tell them, ‘We’ve got you.’”
Stacie primarily spreads the word about Christmas Blessings through social media. Most donations come from the community, but last year, one of her relatives in Kansas sent a generous cash donation after seeing her post on Facebook. This year, she is also soliciting support from local businesses.
Stacie pledges that no list will go unfulfilled. “I love all these kids. I will make sure that every child will have a magical Christmas morning, on my own if I have to,” she says.
“I feel blessed that my family is a part of the NuTech Lifestyle: success and working hard, enjoyment and celebrating our success and family and doing all of this with the ones who mean the most,” Stacie notes. “I compare it to what I’m trying to do with Christmas Blessings. The good Lord has chosen some of us to share the blessings that we have been given and give to others. To help them make the most of their happy times with their family.”
For Stacie, Christmas Blessings comes down to love. “Some of these kids don’t have love,” Stacie says, “And it’s heartbreaking. The love of Jesus and the love of my community is the focus of all of this. That’s where my heart is.”
If you’d like to learn more about donating or volunteering for Christmas Blessings, contact Stacie Lewis at 618-599-5309 or [email protected].