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The charity has been operational for 27 years

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Everybody’s getting into the Christmas spirit.

And, on this traditionally special Saturday each year two weeks out, so are more than 1,000 children from lesser-privileged or down-on-their luck families.

The annual Joy of Giving played out soon after dawn Dec. 12 at Walmart near Marco Island, with patient lines of families waiting to enter the store, then going on their $100 per child spree, and finally exiting – but not before being loaded down with fat turkeys from major sponsor, the Island Country Club.

“We thought about what we would buy before we came,” said Alfredo Gonzalez, who shopped for their three young children along with wife Rosa. “The children don’t know what they’re going to get. That’s the deal,” he said with a huge smile.

Islander Nicki Davis founded the Joy of Giving 27 years ago, and always love to point out that thousands and thousands of area children would not have been able to return to school a few weeks later and tell their classmates: “Santa came to my house too.”

On Dec. 12, bicycles and toys were high on the list of parents, but many of them opted for clothing and shoes for their kids as well.

Families were nominated by counselors from schools in Marco Island, North Naples, Golden Gate and East Naples. Around 70 children from Marco’s Tommie Barfield Elementary School and a couple dozen from the Marco Island Charter Middle School will also benefit from the giving charity.

The Joy of Giving started out as modestly as the families it now serves, when in 1988 Davis started with just one needy family whose lives she decided to brighten by getting a wish list from a single mom and enabling Santa to deliver.

“One of the girls ran out, tried to put his arms around his waist and said ‘Santa, I knew you wouldn’t forget me. Last year I waited, and you didn’t come,’” Davis said.

Davis raised the money by convincing Coldwell Banker (Realty) colleagues to forgo their Secret Santa tradition, and instead pool the money for her initiative.

From there, The Joy of Giving snowballed, and in recent years members of the Island Country Club have basically guaranteed its success by donating about half the cash needed.

And, they top it off with those turkeys on the way out.

A generous new sponsor this year was Walker’s Marine, Davis said, and Autocraft owner Ernie Borden again staged an annual motorcycle ride. In addition, First Florida Integrity Bank and manager Tom Wagor have been long-time supporters.

Davis made particular mention of organization vice-president Misty Sayah, saying without her efforts she simply wouldn’t be able to cope with the magnitude of pulling the whole thing together.

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