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Longboat Key Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019 6 months ago

Longboaters tell about their greatest gifts

Longboaters share their memories of the best giving or receiving they've ever experienced.
by: Nat Kaemmerer Staff Writer

Christmas is a season of giving and receiving, but in a world where “stuff” is piling up faster than ever, the best gifts can sometimes be the ones of time, kind words or something homemade. Longboat Key residents shared their most memorable gifts, given or received, or a holiday ornament that marks the beginning of the season for them. Here’s hoping this list brings back memories of your own favorite gifts or inspires you to give like the folks below.

A Christmas reunion, Mary Baker

My most memorable holiday occurred 49 years ago.  My husband of less than a year, Basil, was serving in Vietnam as a draftee in the U.S. Army. I was facing another Christmas with only the hope of a phone call. 

The phone call I received shortly before the holidays was an unbelievable gift.  Basil was in California and would be discharged in a matter of days. We were finally reunited and spent Christmas with our families.  After a year of danger, stress, uncertainty, and worry, we were able to begin our life together and make plans for the future.

Donations from the Shugars. Photo courtesy of Isaac Azerad.

A Modern-Day Hanukkah Miracle, Isaac Azerad

I would like to relay a story of generosity that exemplifies the many miracles that we, as partners in Tikun Olam, repairing the world, are witnesses to during this Hanukah season.

Ronnie Shugar, the CEO and co-owner of Raw Sugar Living, a cosmetic company located in Southern California, recently joined our Temple.

After hearing about Temple Beth Israel’s continuous support of Turning Point, a homeless assistance organization, Ronnie decided to gift a very large pallet of soap and cosmetics to TBI for distribution to various charities, including Turning Point, in need of personal grooming products.

The spirit of generosity shines among our members, new and old alike. Thank you, Ronnie, for being a modern day miracle maker.

The Gift of Community, Susan Rochford

Several years ago, I was employed by a homeless shelter. Each night, at least 250 homeless residents would stop in for a meal and a warm night’s rest. I saw first-hand how impossible living on the streets could be.  

One resident went through AA meetings and religious counseling there, and was so successful the shelter hired him.  He was looked up to by the homeless community. After several years working in that shelter, he passed away unexpectedly one day at work.  

The shelter held a remembrance ceremony and I found myself sitting quietly as the homeless community stepped into the room, one by one.  Some had mismatched shoes or no shoes. Many carried their possessions with them. Several preferred to stand in the back. One man came in quickly, left a flower, and then exited.    

The pastor began with a short story about the deceased and then asked if anyone in the room had anything to add.  Several guests took turns telling their stories about what this man had done to make their lives more meaningful. He seemed to know if they needed something or just needed some attention.  One man with a huge shirt and red cap stood and spoke so eloquently about his friend that I wondered what could have happened to this exceptional speaker that he was now living on the streets.  Another woman with wild hair and too many dresses on stood and spoke beautifully about her experiences with her deceased friend and how much she would miss him. Each painted a picture of how important this man had been in their lives.  

It has been several years, but I still remember the unexpected gifts of love, caring, and thanksgiving that were presented that day for this man.  It was a gift to me, and let me know we are all a meaningful part of each other’s lives. We are all part of a community.

Best Gift(s) Ever!, Tina Adams

My husband, Jason, and I have been blessed with three amazing sons: Conner, 15, Kolten, 5 and Grayson, 3. To pinpoint a single best gift that I have received for Christmas is impossible for me to do.

Handmade ornaments from Tina Adams' family.

The best gifts I have received and always look forward to are the gifts that my sons are so eager to give me and watch me open. Each year they make me an ornament to hang on our tree or some sort of Christmas decoration for the home. The joy and memories these gifts bring are simply priceless!

Sandi Drake and Hunter share the Christmas spirit. Photo courtesy of Sandi Drake.

The Gift of Time, Sandi Drake

As I’ve grown older, Christmas has become less exciting for what I would receive and more exciting for what I could give.  The most rewarding gift I have received or given is the gift of time: taking time out of the everyday hustle-bustle to appreciate what you have and pass it forward.  My most rewarding Christmas gifts were visits to Oak Park School in December 2017 to provide teddy bears to students and the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church visit for the Face Autisim’s Sensory Santa event last year with my dog, Hunter. I was fortunate enough to share these two experiences with the best fire department staff you could work with.  Doing the right thing to bring a smile to others’ faces doesn’t take much time, and the memories of these simple acts will impact you greatly for a lifetime.

A Team That Gives, Paul Dezzi

As I’ve grown older and joined the fire department, I’ve seen many unfortunate families that didn’t or couldn’t provide the type of holiday season I was used to, both growing up and now with my own family.

Some families the department has “adopted” lost their homes to fires or had ill children, while others couldn’t afford to provide a meal during the holidays.  These were the families that inspired me. So we would speak to the families and learn what they needed (food, clothing, shoes, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, etc.) and what each individual wanted for Christmas.  Santa would come to the house on a fire truck to deliver the gifts.

The smiles on the face of each family member will always be with me. Knowing you were part of a team that made a family’s holiday special makes your holiday even more special!  

Joyce and Bill Wartinbee and family. Photo courtesy of Joyce Wartinbee.

The Gift of Pure Love, Joyce Wartinbee

It was the perfect Christmas morning in New Canaan, CT with our four grandchildren seated before the decorated Christmas tree as snow fell in soft, puffy flakes outside.  Gifts from Santa were arranged in four distinct piles, one collection for each child. Suddenly, our 7-year-old grandson walked over to his mother with the electric pencil sharpener he had just unwrapped from his Santa gifts.  “Here, Mommy,” he said, “This is for you.” When she replied, “But, Shane, that is a gift you put on YOUR Santa list,” he smiled joyously and said, “I asked Santa to bring it to me so that I could give it to you because I know you need one…and I didn’t have enough money to buy it for you.”  With all the innocence and pure love of a child, he continued, “I asked Santa to give me this gift so that I could give it to you for Christmas!” Our hearts glowed with love that day for the many blessings in our lives and especially for the selfless act of our young grandson who gave his mother the most wonder-filled gift she could have ever imagined!

Santa Claus is comin’ to town, Nancy Rozance

Nancy Claus is comin' to town. Photo courtesy of Nancy Rozance.

Dear Santa aka Jack,

I know we have adopted the idea of giving each other "Memory Makers" for birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas but this year I would like to ask you to make an exception.  I have found the perfect gift. It will not be a gift for me but it will enable me to give the gift of a smile and laughter to all those I encounter during the holiday season.  I can use this gift when we volunteer at the Pines of Sarasota; at the airport when we pick up some of our kids for the holidays; at our holiday open house and around the town of Longboat Key.  

This gift will not last forever but the special memories it will create could last a lifetime.  The cost for this is approximately $100 plus shipping. 

So, are you interested in pursuing this amazing opportunity with me?  Do you know what it is?  

Well, I guess I better let you know what the gift is because I have already ordered it from Amazon.  Your wife would like a Santa Claus costume for Christmas this year.

Love, hugs and Merry Christmas,


Bob and Carol Patulo deliver puppies. Photo courtesy of Carol Patulo.

A puppy under the tree, Carol Patulo

I have to say that the best Christmas gift I've ever given is delivering puppies on Christmas morning.  I volunteer at Honor Animal Rescue in Bradenton. They have a program where parents adopt a puppy and arrange for a Christmas morning delivery.

My husband and I dress up as elves and deliver the puppy to their home at a designated time.  Seeing the faces of those children on Christmas morning is priceless. It's worth noting that it's not always a gift for children.  Our first year, one of our deliveries was to an adult, and her reaction was even more extreme than the kids!

Creativity for Christmas, Mary Ann Brady 

The best holiday gifts I’ve received are the homemade ornaments for our Christmas tree! Every holiday season, it makes my heart smile to open our boxes of decorations and find a plethora of ornaments that my son made during his childhood years. And the collection continues to grow with my granddaughter’s artistic talents. Tis’ the season to be blessed with such happy memories and more to come!

Ornaments made by Mary Ann Brady's granddaughter Jillian and son Mark. Photo courtesy of Mary Ann Brady.

Mary Christmas, Connie Schindewolf

In 1991, my husband and I gave this doll to his mother who was struggling with cancer at the time.  She asked my daughter, Jamie, who wasn't even 2 yet, if she'd like to name it. Jamie said, "Mary Christmas."  Mom said, "Merry Christmas to you too." But Jamie replied, "No, Mary Christmas." So that became this doll's name.  Mom died 4 months later, but we get out Mary Christmas every year and display her proudly. She is now 28 years old.

Mary Christmas. Photo courtesy of Connie Schindewolf.

The Christmas Coat, Dave Marshall

My wife and I adopted our two daughters, who were 10 and 15 years old, and arrived home from Russia just before Thanksgiving. Their first Christmas with us, was, in American terms, their first “real” Christmas because our celebration included stockings, gifts, and lots of their favorite foods. At church on Christmas Eve, a family friend shared with us that she asked our girls what they wanted from Santa and they replied, “Winter coats, new.” They didn’t share that desire with us because, in their minds, we had already done so much for them. Our friend offered to run out right then and buy them; but, my wife declined her kind offer because weeks before, she bought them new matching white puffy winter coats with hoods. On Christmas morning, just ten hours after that church conversation, our daughters tore open matching boxes that held new winter coats. Hugging their coats, they jumped up and down, and yelled, “Santa-Klausa ya veryu!!” [I believe in Santa Claus]. With tears welling up in my eyes, I looked at my wife and said, “So do I.” 

The Handmade Tree, Steve Howard

Steve Howard's ceramic tree.

This was my mother’s ceramic tree that an aunt made for her 40+ years ago. It goes up with our tree every year. You’d be surprised at how many people had one growing up. I always remember it as a child growing up. It was part of the decorating tradition. My mom passed away four years ago. It keeps our memory of her alive. The tree also plays “Jingle Bells.” 

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