A trio of Cape Coral women with a passion of putting presents in the hands of needy children for Christmas at no cost to the parents has seen their numbers grow since January, due to five more men and women joining the team and sharing the same desire.
Although Audrey McFalls had an idea for such an effort 12 years ago that fell through, she kept it in the back of her mind until a time when she could make that thought come to life in Cape Coral.
Mcfalls realized that there were not enough toys to go around for the needy 12 years ago, which made her reach out to the Dunbar area. She later became discouraged after talking and meeting with some folks who lived there, which stopped her idea from forming.
“Twelve years later at my church I saw that the need was great in Cape Coral,” McFalls said. “Our church had a hard time keeping up with the need.”
She said there has been as such a blow to the Cape Coral’s economy that affected a lot of parents and children, so she brought forth the idea of Oma’s Heart to her friends who loved the idea.
In January, Oma’s Heart incorporated with three women who wanted to help renew the Christmas spirt for Cape families.
The mission statement for the organization is “to offer parents the ability to provide Christmas gifts for their children, with the help of committed volunteers that have the desire and drive to obtain and supply cost free merchandise. Renewing a sense of Christmas spirit in families through a financially difficult time.”
The name of the organization stemmed from the Dutch word for grandmother, oma. McFalls said her family came to the United States in 1961 from Holland and her mother was known as Oma to her siblings’ children and her own children.
“She was a stay-at-home mom who lived for her children,” McFalls said. “She was everyone’s mom. She was the one everyone could come to.”
Although she lost her mother in 1999, her famous expression while placing her hand on her heart, “kids are my heart” will always remain with her.
“She was known by so many kids as Oma,” McFalls said.
Therefore, there was no question what the name of the organization was going to be – Oma’s Heart Inc.
Dawn MacKenzie said families, friends and neighbors have been affected badly in Cape Coral due to the way the economy has been, so she was more than willing to jump on board and help her friend out.
“I am very passionate about helping people,” she said.
After bouncing some ideas off of one another, the group began collecting toys and planning how to make it the best Christmas experience for parents and children.
Jenny Schmelz said as of Thursday they had collected enough toys to give to 257 children in Cape Coral. Each child will receive two toys at no cost to the parents.
“We want to help more families,” she said.
Schmelz said she joined the group because she wanted to help those in need.
“No one gets paid for this, all the money goes to the kids,” she said.
McFalls said their goal is to be able to serve 400 families this holiday season.
“I think that is a reachable goal,” she said.
Parents who are financial strained and are in need of assistance in gathering presents for their children can visit three churches in Cape Coral to fill out a very simple application. The purpose of the application is to place the parents and children into a database, along with providing them with a voucher to go shopping at the toy store in December.
Applications will be available during the first or second week of November at Grace Church, 13 S.E. 21st Place; First Assemble West, 133 N.E. Pine Island Road and First Christian Church, 2650 Country Club Blvd.
McFalls said the application is very basic and will consist of the parents’ and children’s names, their address, phone number and something to identify them with, which will most likely be a portion of their drivers license number.
“That way we have the information,” she said. “We can identify them when they come to shop.”
Due to the organization wanting to help the community and neighbors, they are creating a Christmas experience for the families. McFalls said the store is not going to be about folks picking up a couple of gifts and leaving.
Once the families arrive at the store they will have the opportunity to view a live nativity, listen to carolers, shop in the toy and kids store, visit a wrapping station and mingle with Mrs. Claus and Santa Claus.
The aroma of hot chocolate and cookies will fill the air as Mrs. Claus hands them out to all the families who visit the store, while Santa Claus brings holiday cheer to the children.
“It will be an experience like no other,” MacKenzie said. “We are trying to get the community involved to make sure children get love for the holidays.”
There will also be a station for children to write letters to Santa Claus and a Santa’s workshop.
Now nine months later, McFalls said it is an unbelievable feeling of how far they have come with the idea of helping children.
“When you have a dream and when you become so passionate about something, it’s pretty cool,” she said, adding that it is even more exciting when friends and family share the same passion. “Picking up the passion and running with it, that is indescribable.”
McFalls encourages individuals to keep an eye on the group’s website www.omasheart.org for important dates and information.
Oma’s Heart will hold some events to help collect toys for the cause over the next few months. The first one will be held on Sept. 24 at WalMart on Del Prado Boulevard in Cape Coral. McFalls said they will have a table at each entrance to accept donations, along with a box for toys. The event will begin at 9 a.m.
Throughout the month of October toy boxes will be located in all of the Cape Coral Walgreens for Oma’s Heart.
The group is in need of toys for children between the ages of 1 and 12 years old. Although any toy donation is appreciated, they are seeking toys for 8-12 year-olds.
For more information, contact McFalls at 239-989-6718.