An old-fashioned English tea party commenced on a lush garden haven at a private estate in the hills near Mission Canyon in Santa Barbara that was the perfect setting for the third annual Angels Bearing Gifts fundraiser.
Angels Bearing Gifts, a nonprofit organization benefiting people with developmental disabilities, works to ensure that more than 200 special-needs clients are not forgotten during the holiday season, and on their birthdays and Valentine’s Day.
Each year staff members and dozens of volunteers act as guardian angels, delivering gifts to beneficiaries who live in group homes and at skilled nursing facilities and private residences.
“Last year, Angels Bearing Gifts volunteer staff and board members delivered over 200 packages to hundreds of residents from Santa Barbara, Carpinteria and San Luis Obispo alone,” board member Linda Cowen said.
Many of the recipients, adults and children, have been diagnosed with Down syndrome, chromosomal and genetic disorders, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy and mental retardation. Some are orphans, and others have outlived their family members, so for them the holiday season and birthdays can be a lonely time.
A personalized gift from Angels Bearing Gifts on these special days reminds them that they are special and loved.
Cowen told Noozhawk that the organization does its best to grant the recipient’s “wish list” requests, and shoppers are given a budget of $55 per person.
“Things that they like are a new pair of shoes or pants, Michel Jackson T-shirts, music or sport memorabilia,” Cowen said. “They want simple things — these are simple folks that are mostly older.”
Once the request is filled, Angels Bearing Gifts supporters wrap and deliver each gift to the doorstep of the surprised and grateful recipient. The gift exchange is often combined with lots of smiles, hugs, kisses, and sometimes tears of joy from both parties.
“Most of our beneficiaries live on SSI (Supplemental Security Income),” Cowen said. “And so they are very grateful for the attention as well as the gifts that they receive.”
The afternoon Garden Tea Party was a joyous occasion for guests who strolled the spectacular gardens stopping to survey and bid on an array of silent auction items positioned around a shaded patio.
Attendees conversed over tea and homemade cookies served by ABG staff and board members, and enjoyed a serenade of songs from talented members of the Young Singers Club.
“Our students are here today to support Angels Bearing Gifts and bring joy and song to those who support this wonderful organization that provides special outreach to people with disabilities,” said Brett Mutinelli, director of the Young Singers Club. “It’s a powerful group that cares deeply about each person as an individual, and it’s a privilege to be here.”
— Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.