Donations needed for Guadalupe Center’s Holiday Gift Shop

Guadalupe Center aims to provide presents to about 2,000 Immokalee children in 2021 – the most it’s ever served – through the nonprofit’s annual Holiday Gift Shop. 

Guadalupe Center holiday class photoThrough Dec. 10, Guadalupe Center is accepting new, unwrapped donations of age-appropriate toys, games, clothing, shoes and other gifts for infants through teenagers. 

“Because Guadalupe Center has expanded to create additional educational opportunities for students in Immokalee, we also need to grow our outreach programs, including the Holiday Gift Shop,” said Guadalupe Center President Dawn Montecalvo. “Thanks to generous supporters and local businesses, we have always reached our goal of making sure that all students attending Guadalupe Center, as well as their siblings, have a gift to unwrap on Christmas morning. We are hopeful the community will again step forward to brighten the holidays for families in Immokalee.” 

In Immokalee, 97% of children are classified as “economically needy.” After their parents pay for rent, food, utilities and other expenses, there often isn’t enough money left to buy Christmas gifts. 

“The pandemic has exacerbated financial challenges faced by low-income working families, and rising inflation is putting even more stress on the family budget,” said Robert Spano, vice president of programs at Guadalupe Center. “Every child should have a gift under the Christmas tree with their name on it, and the Holiday Gift Shop is our way of helping families create a memorable holiday season.”

Holiday Gift Suggestions

Age-appropriate gift suggestions include: 

  • Infants and toddlers (0-2 years): infant gyms and bouncers, rattles, baby dolls, stacking rings, light-up or musical toys, crib mobiles, bath toys 
  • Preschool-age children (3-5 years): building blocks, baby dolls, wireless headphones or earbuds, remote-controlled cars, popular children’s characters and superheroes, activity sets, Play-Doh 
  • School-age children (6-12 years): dolls, action figures, LEGO kits, wireless headphones or earbuds, musical instruments, sporting goods, popular children’s characters and superheroes, arts and crafts sets, riding toys, tablets, science lab kits 
  • Teenagers (13-18 years): gift cards, wireless headphones or earbuds, Roku Express boxes, Bluetooth speakers, Fitbits, cell phone accessories, tablets 

How to Donate Holiday Gifts

Unwrapped gifts can be dropped off through Dec. 10 at two locations in Collier County: Guadalupe Resale Shop, 12980 Tamiami Trail North, Unit 10, in Naples; and Guadalupe Center, 509 Hope Circle in Immokalee. Additionally, monetary donations can be made securely online at GuadalupeCenter.org/donate.

For more information, please contact Haley Thalheimer, community outreach and donor relations coordinator, at HThalheimer@GuadalupeCenter.org or 239-657-7120. 

Guadalupe Center, community partners brighten Christmas with gifts for thousands of Immokalee children

Christmas morning was both merry and bright for thousands of Immokalee children thanks to a little holiday spirit that began spreading back in October.

That’s when the elves behind Guadalupe Center’s annual Holiday Gift Shop began soliciting donations of new toys, games, clothing, stuffed animals, bicycles and other age-appropriate gifts for children. Almost like Christmas magic, gifts started flowing into a staging area at Guadalupe Center, piling high before a sleigh full of volunteers began sorting and arranging gifts by age and gender.

By mid-December, Guadalupe Center’s Performing Arts Hall had transformed into winter wonderland. The beautifully decorated Holiday Gift Shop opened its doors for five days to parents of children in the After-school Tutoring Program. Parents perused rows of gifts neatly arranged by age and gender to pick out the perfect presents for their sons and daughters. Employees from Publix, Oracle, Wells Fargo, Guadalupe Center and the Collier County Sheriff’s Office joined volunteers from area businesses, residential communities and civic groups to wrap presents in colorful, kid-friendly wrapping paper sure to put a smile on their faces come Christmas morning.

Those who have witnessed the program, which has operated for more than 20 years, have said Santa’s Workshop has nothing on Guadalupe Center’s Holiday Gift Shop!

The Holiday Gift Shop wasn’t born out of a desire to provide more gifts to children. Rather, it was to make sure no child went without one on Christmas Day. In Immokalee, the poverty rate is 43.4%, and many families struggle with day-to-day living expenses like housing, food, utilities and transportation. Money for Christmas gifts simply isn’t in the family budget.

Guadalupe Center selects families for the Holiday Gift Shop based on financial need, but the 927 children who received a gift through the annual program were not the only ones assisted in 2019. Guadalupe Center’s generous partners again stepped forward to help.

For more than a decade, Waterside Shops has provided a spectacular Christmas party for more than 150 second-graders in the After-school Tutoring Program. The party includes appearances by Santa and Mrs. Claus, elves, face painting, crafts and lunch. Tenants at Waterside Shops donated items so that each child can select a gift, and remaining items are brought to Immokalee to stock the Holiday Gift Shop.

The list of generous donors and community partners continues to grow each year. Since 2016, families from the Community School of Naples have adopted families in the Early Childhood Education Program, providing gifts and clothing for nearly 300 children. Community School students even accompany Santa Claus for the gift delivery.

The Latin American Motorcycle Association’s Holiday Toy Run, Miromar Outlets, PetSmart and a long list of additional businesses all contribute to this magical month of giving. Individuals also ask if they can help local families in need, and plenty of Immokalee residents still haven’t recovered from the impacts of Hurricane Irma, so they’ve quietly donated everything from food, clothing, household items, gifts and even holiday decorations.

Thanks to our community partners, we distributed holiday gifts to 1,993 children in 2019.

Each year, it is truly astounding to watch our community spring into action to help the children and families of this community. That indeed is the spirit of Christmas.

Guadalupe Center seeking donations for Holiday Gift Shop

Guadalupe Center is accepting donations to restock its Holiday Gift Shop, an annual shopping experience that allows Immokalee parents to select Christmas presents for their children.

Now through Dec. 5, Guadalupe Center will accept new, unwrapped donations of toys, clothing, shoes and other gifts appropriate for infants through teenagers. In 2018, Guadalupe Center distributed gifts for 900 children, helping 328 Immokalee families put presents under the Christmas tree.

“The Holiday Gift Shop means everything to these parents, many of whom struggle with day-to-day living expenses, let alone the additional financial burden during the holidays,” said Guadalupe Center President Dawn Montecalvo. “Each year, generous individuals, residential communities, local clubs and businesses contribute gifts and monetary donations that help make the Holiday Gift Shop a tremendous success.”

The Holiday Gift Shop is open to parents of children in Guadalupe Center programs. Donated items include new clothing and shoes, board games, dolls, bicycles, LEGO sets, books, stuffed animals and other toys, as well as gift cards for the teenagers. After parents select gifts, community volunteers then wrap the presents.

Guadalupe Center suggests the following age-appropriate gifts:

  • Infants and toddlers (0-2 years): infant gyms and bouncers, rattles, baby dolls, stacking rings, crib mobiles, bath toys, musical toys
  • Preschool-age children (3-5 years): building blocks, baby dolls, remote-controlled cars, popular children’s characters and superheroes, activity sets, Play-Doh
  • School-age children (6-12 years): Barbie dolls, action figures, LEGO kits, musical instruments, sporting goods, arts and crafts kits, riding toys
  • Teenagers (13-18): gift cards, non-violent video games, purses or wallets, hair accessories, wireless headphones, tabletop games, clothing featuring sports teams

The Holiday Gift Shop runs Dec. 9-13.

Unwrapped gifts can be dropped off at Guadalupe Resale Shop at 12980 Tamiami Trail North, Unit 10, in Naples; or contact Ellie Ramirez at ERamirez@guadalupecenter.org to arrange for drop off at the Morgridge Family Early Childhood Education Campus at 509 Hope Circle in Immokalee. Alternatively, monetary donations can be made online at GuadalupeCenter.org.

Guadalupe Center staff will also be collecting gifts at Mercato, 911 Strada Place in Naples, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 20 outside Bravo Italian Restaurant, and from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 5 on the event lawn.

For more information, please contact Bob Spano, vice president of programs, at RSpano@GuadalupeCenter.org or 239-657-7145.