By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – The seed to give back was planted many years ago, but for Shirley Sutphin the way she did so was what really mattered, was closest to her heart.
“I started my mission to help families because I felt that dropping gifts off at the Salvation Army and many other places and collecting toys for children was great, but I wanted to do something different,” recollected the Middletown resident Sutphin, creator of the not-for-profit Family Dreams Foundation. “I wanted to see and be up-close-and-personal with the families, taking them to a 5-star restaurant for dinner with the people who were giving them their gifts of Needs and Wants from the lists the families provided, and just experience things to have hope for in the future.”
Sunday, December 18, at Newburgh’s Pamela’s on the Hudson, two local families had the special opportunity to experience all of what Sutphin had envisioned and much more. While dining inside the elegant restaurant, enveloped by magical views of the Hudson River outside and festive holiday decorations and beautifully wrapped presents as well as surrounding laughter, the Jones and Rojas families radiated with genuine appreciation.
Seated nearby to them were some of the many contributors, volunteers who helped fulfill the “Wants and Needs” Lists. Provided with background information as well as clothing sizes on their selected recipient, the contributors were able to feel a unique connection with him-her. When they personally presented their gifts, that bond intensified.
“When Shirley told me about the Jones Family, I connected with her right away because she is a single mom and so am I,” said contributor Danielle Molella of Millbrook. “I decided to put together a basket for a Christmas dinner for her family; I’m just so happy to be a part of this whole organization.”
Another contributor, Grace Rosario of Washingtonville who serves on the Foundation’s Board, contributed money to the families, and was also on hand at the dinner to interact with them.
“This event is so special because it gives you an opportunity to bring some Christmas to someone who might not have it otherwise,” said Rosario.
Seated right next to one of the tables of contributors, the Jones family was taking in the views, enjoying their meals and simply filled with gratitude.
“This is a truly special event for me and my family, and we are so appreciative of everything,” said Melody, surrounded by her three children: Raven, Aiden and Logan. “We hope that next year we will be sitting on the other side, contributing and helping other families in need; you just never know when you will be that family, and organizations such as this one are so important because there are so many families in need.”
Seated right near the Jones family was the City of Newburgh Rojas clan, composed of; mother Sandra, her fiancé Jovany and children: Anais, Anaya, Iliana and Ayana. Introduced to Sutphin through her daughters’ school counselor, Sandra immediately felt a comfortable connection and liking for her.
“My family is very appreciative and grateful for everything Shirley and her organization has done for us,” said Rojas. “Christmas is now a real blessing.”
That feeling goes both ways.
“It is a wonderful, life-changing experience for all in attendance to see and feel the importance of giving,” said Sutphin. “There’s something about giving back to others that changes how we see our own circumstances.” She added, “These families are beautiful humans, just like you and I, and I want them to feel important no matter what is going on in their lives.”
To learn more about- become involved with The Family Dreams Foundation: email email@example.com or call (845) 421-8748.