Locals work to ensure single parents have gifts on Christmas

Jan. 7, 2021 | Danielle Eaton

SOUTH HADLEY/GRANBY –  Two single parents in the community worked together during the holiday season to ensure that single parents in South Hadley and Granby had a gift to open on Christmas Day.

South Hadley resident Cindy Beer said she first began thinking of the Single Parent Project after experiencing the holidays as a single parent herself. She said the holiday season is often difficult for many, but especially for single parents. “What happens, it’s like a lot of people get depressed around the holidays, it’s hard to focus on anything,” she said.

Beer explained that having been a single parent who used to live in Boston while her daughter was sick, she knew what it felt like. “I’ve been back and forth, every year I feel like I should do something. Wouldn't it be nice if some single parents would open gifts on Christmas Day,” she said. “Lots of single parents don’t get to open gifts. I’m fortunate enough to have a friend that gives my daughter a gift to give me.”

Beer said her life changed completely when she had her daughter, so she understood the struggle. “My life is really busy with her, my life has totally changed. It’s been a big struggle for me, and I thought it would be nice if some other parents didn’t have to struggle,” she said.

She said she began by posting her idea on online forums, asking if people would be interested in donating to the project. This, she said, was also how she received nominations for single parents who might like to receive a gift. “I put it out there again on a post, if anyone knew of a single parent they wanted to nominate, if anyone wanted to nominate themselves,” she said. “I knew some single parents myself that I wanted to give to originally. One girl in particular, she’s a great parent, does so much in the community, I wanted to start with her and it went crazy from there.”

While she initially wanted to give just a few gifts,  instead she distributed dozens. “It just clicked in my head, just in my head I wanted to give three or four nice gifts, it went way beyond my expectations,” she said.

Not long after, she began organizing the project and posting it on community forums, resident and fellow single parent Kristen Kleeber reached out to ask if she could help. “Kristen reached out and asked if she could help at that point, it was starting to get busy. I think we did a pretty good job,” she said.

While she expressed gratitude for Kleeber, she said the community support was what made the project come together. “The community was wonderful, I ran around and picked things up, things were dropped off at the house,” she said. “The community was so kind, I never would have done it without them. It was amazing, amazing. People were so giving.”

Beer said donated gifts included a variety of items including necklaces, handbags, items from Bath and Bodyworks, gift certificates for Big Y, candles and movie theater tickets. Ultimately, she said her and Kleeber were able to distribute 35 gifts to parents in the towns of South Hadley and Granby.

She said the distribution of the gifts was a little different than what she would have normally done due to COVID-19, but it all worked out in the end. “What we did is Kristen and I split the bags up, we had people pick up, we put the bags out there [outside the house] and they picked them up,” she said.

This, however, didn’t change the fact that people were surprised when receiving their gift. “Some of the people were very surprised, some people kind of knew, but I don’t think they realized the extent of how giving the community was,” she said.

Beer said she’s hoping to make the project an annual tradition, and depending on the pandemic next year has a plan in mind to distribute the gifts, but didn’t want to give too much away. Giving back though, she said, made her incredibly happy. “My heart was so full, I can’t describe how happy it made me,” she said.

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