By Jennifer L. Warren
NEW WINDSOR – Isabella Campoverde clutched two armfuls of dolls as her brown eyes lit up with excitement, and a broad smile covered her face, while she happily uttered, “Thank you.”
The moment was pure holiday magic; similar scenarios could be seen playing out inside New Windsor’s La Casa Vincina restaurant last Monday evening. Each was made possible by someone many would dub a “Christmas Angel,” Shirley Sutphin. For the past two decades, Sutphin, along with a loyal, altruistic set of volunteer “Ambassadors,” have been making Christmas pricelessly plentiful and memorable for a selected local family in need. This year’s recipients were the Campoverde family of five from Newburgh.
The unique concept, which aims to “help people in need in a different kind of way,” all began in the year 2000. Sutphin, who has always possessed a philanthropic, community-minded spirit, had been regularly donating to the Salvation Army and local firehouses as well as was a host for an assortment of not-for-profits. Despite the satisfaction she (and others) derived from these efforts, Sutphin was seeking to do more.
“I really wanted to help people in need in a different kind of way, so I reached out to everyone I could, asking if they knew a family in need, and the response was huge, flowing over from all area counties,” explained Sutphin, who has a thirty year proven track record in marketing, sales, event management and training experience. “I could only select one recipient who had to be a low-income family of at least five.”
Each nominated family candidate is required to write a piece, outlining their individual situation. Sutphin then selects one out of the three finalists based upon its needs and wants. That “Special Some One,” along with his-her family, is treated to a meal of their choice at a 5 Star Restaurant. Additionally, each family member has his-her “needs and wants” met with an impressive selection of gifts that appear at the dinner; one of each gifts is presented by the individual buyer Ambassador at the dinner. The authentic, “very personal” concept is life-altering for all involved.
“It demonstrates the wonderful spirit of giving, and just to see the reactions on the children’s faces and the gratitude in the eyes of the parents is a touching experience like no other,” explained Sutphin about the event she has been overseeing for the past 20 years. “Each person involved is able to create special bonds that can last a lifetime.”
Those priceless connections were evident Monday, as the Campoverde family enjoyed delicious Italian entrees, were presented with gifts and joyously chatted with others as they fully absorbed the power of community and caring. Among them was Sutphin. Clad in a red, festive, Santa insignia sweater, the energetic and animated creator of the Annual Event was in constant motion, doing what she does best: Bringing people together.
“Shirley is a real catalyst, a true inspiration, and no one stops her,” said new Ambassador, Mary Lou Carolan, who is the Executive Director of the Newburgh Free Library. “If she wants to accomplish something, she gets it done no matter what.”
It’s an altruistic mission supported by a steady set of committed Ambassadors, ones that not only thoroughly support Sutphin’s giving journey, but the woman herself.
“It has been most rewarding to see how we made a difference in so many of the lives of the families we have touched,” said Shana Robinson, who has attended the Some One Special event as an Ambassador for all 20 years of its existence. “It is so amazing how people can come together to fulfill someone else’s needs and wants for Christmas; it really warms my heart to know people care about people in need.” She added, “Shirley is truly Some One Special herself.”
For Sutphin, the passion of giving, helping and recognizing continues. March is Women’s History Month, and she is hard at work, planning something incredible for 2022 to celebrate all of this population’s gifts and accomplishments.