Growing up, Spirit Musicorum didn’t much look forward to the holidays.
“Christmas was kind of hit-and-miss,” he said. “I mean, for a while Christmas wasn’t anything big for me to look forward to.”
Now, however, Musicorum looks forward to spending Christmas with his wife, Sharise Lynn Petty, and their children, two-year-old Saphira Nanamo Petty and 5 1/2-year-old Sylvanas Catherine Petty.
Life is still a struggle for the family, due to Musicorum and Sharise’s anxiety disorders, which prevent both from working. Thanks to the Richmond Christmas Fund, however, they’re going to have another enjoyable holiday.
“We wouldn’t have even had a Christmas if it hadn’t been for the Fund,” he said. “It was a huge relief to be able to afford Christmas dinner and to even have a small amount of things for our daughter, who was a newborn at the time we began receiving help. It just made us feel human again.
“Christmastime is typically a source of immense pressure. And to have that taken off and receive that assistance, it’s one less thing to stress about.”
A program of Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives, the Richmond Christmas Fund assists hundreds of low-income families each year.
In 2021, it gave out toys, gift cards and/or grocery vouchers to over 2,000 residents. This year, the fund is expecting to help close to 3,000 people, said Ryan Luetzen, the Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives manager of resource development and communications.
The fund relies partly on The Province’s Empty Stocking Fund. The funds are used exclusively to purchase grocery vouchers.
“This year, we’ve been able to provide one grocery voucher per family member, regardless of household size, and support from the Empty Stocking Fund has helped make that possible,” he said.
Generous readers donate to The Province fund, which helps not only Richmond families, but also people assisted by 25 other groups in the Lower Mainland.
Musicorum picked up his family’s grocery vouchers and toys in late November. Hidden away from prying eyes until the big day, the latter include an Imaginarium Discovery set, a Build-a-Bear, a Paw Patrol Ultimate Rescue Fire Truck, a Little Mermaid toy set, a Funko Pop! vinyl figure, books and a Spider-Man bucket with a shovel.
“Silvanas loves Spider-Man,” he said. “She’s just super-excited to be able to open the presents and see something new, and she loves being able to help her sister unwrap too. The big thing is the experience of opening a present that’s meant for her. The toys that they’ve offered have always been a hit with her.”
The Richmond family’s holiday plans include using the grocery vouchers for a Christmas dinner with all the fixings.
“My wife makes a real mean turkey,” Musicorum said. “So we’re going to have turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes. And she’ll probably make her bean salad again this year. And then we’re not quite sure yet what we’re going to do for dessert yet — maybe a pumpkin pie.”
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