January 2020 Happy Hippy Mama
Happy January All-
What a lovely Holiday season we experienced here at the Holody house. So much love, food, fun, and gifts were exchanged between friends and family. My favorite part of the season is all of the love. I heard about a wonderful group and just had to share it with all of you. I can’t wait to help in the 2020 season!
East Cleveland Has Its Own Secret Santa
By Emily Holody
Picture this . . . You glance out your window to find sirens blaring, Christmas music pumping, and dozens of smiling elves in Donté's Express t-shirts and Santa hats filling your street. East Cleveland Police, the Shaw High School basketball team, and lines of cars follow close behind. Opening your door, you’re greeted by a smiling elf, laden with gifts. The elf delivers a handwritten card and a family board game wrapped in festive paper, just for you. At first guess, you might think a holiday movie about a Christmas parade is being filmed in your neighborhood, but actually, you’ve just become a part of the Donté Gibbs’ Gift Express.
In 2012, Gibbs, an East Cleveland resident and Shaw High School graduate, joined with friends and fellow alumni India Moore, Dominique Tucker, and Seretha Etheridge to do “something for our city for Christmas," shares Gibbs, adding, “Families are one of our greatest assets in East Cleveland, and with us being raised in East Cleveland, we understood how tough the holidays can be.”
It didn’t take long for the talented crew to come up with the idea of surprising people in their neighborhood with gifts to enjoy together. Donté's Gift Express was born. The initial goal in 2012 was to deliver 100 gifts, and they nearly achieved it, delivering 89. Last year, their biggest year yet, the GIft Express delivered 518 gifts. Altogether, they have delivered 1,536 gifts, and they hope to gift 600 more in 2019, their seventh year in operation.
In order to continue surprising residents each year, the Secret Santas at Donté's Gift Express picks 10 to 12 random streets throughout East Cleveland, transforming them with a Christmas gift-giving parade. “By surprising families and reconnecting with old friends, previous teachers, and more,” Gibbs explains, they “make statements to folks that we care and we’re here, together.”
Donté's Gift Express is made possible by donations, grants, and help from a handful of neighborhood organizations.
None of this would be possible without the dedicated volunteers who make a tradition of shopping for, wrapping, and delivering Donté's Gift Express gifts. According to Gibbs, volunteers reach out as early as August to remind him to keep them “in the loop” because they’re eager to help. The Shaw High School basketball team helps with delivery each year, which allows the group to quickly fan out through many streets, maintaining the element of Christmas surprise.
The Express team also goes one step further each year, gifting at least one family (and sometimes more than one) with the Betty Ruth Fellows Family Gift, named after Gibbs’ late grandmother, who was instrumental in encouraging him to start the GIft Express. Greater Cleveland area residents are encouraged to nominate themselves and/or families within Cuyahoga County who may need additional assistance during the holidays (moving, holiday dinner, etc)
Gibbs and his team say that they are “blessed to be a blessing.” It’s no surprise that Christmas is Gibbs’ favorite time of year. “Growing up in East Cleveland, you learned that you have two hands for a reason; one is for helping yourself, and the second is for helping others,” he says. Clearly, he’s been busy with both hands and his heart.
To read this article in its entirety visit https://wishcleveland.com/. I encourage all of us to remember that we have two hands for a reason and to lead with our hearts. To check-in or continue the conversation shoot me an email at HappyHippyMama@yahoo.com or visit us on Facebook at Happy Hippy Mama.
This months mantra:
I will judge or criticize no one, not even myself.
This month's healthy option:
I will be doing a Whole30 starting January 2nd, 2020. I invite ALL of you to join me. Never done one? Don’t know where to start? Reach out and find me on Facebook at Happy Hippy Mama and we can do it together. Learn more about what Whole30 has done for me, and we can swap recipes and stories. If you aren’t on Facebook but want to continue the conversation feel free to email me at HappyHippyMama@yahoo.com This program has been amazing, and life-changing for me. I encourage all of you to check it out and join me on this journey.
A Peninsula, Ohio, native, Emily Holody is a stay-at-home mother and freelance writer with a degree in Sociology from Kent State University. She has a background in mental health and social work, loves yoga, all things outdoors, and lives in Euclid with her childhood sweetheart and their family.