An Idea is Born

When my daughter and son were five and three respectively, we went shopping at the mall.  It was the 1995 holiday season and the Salvation Army had its Christmas Giving Tree on display, decorated with paper angels that described children in need of holiday gifts. 

When I explained this to them, they started asking questions. “Who are the poor people?” “Where do they live?” “Why are they poor?” “What can we give them to help them not be poor?” Beyond that, I could sense their real concern, "Mom, how can we help?"

We sat down at the kitchen table and over pretzels and apple juice came up with a plan.


Our Plan

We contacted several social service agencies and asked for a list of their clients who would like holiday gifts.  It would be totally anonymous.  We would need just three pieces of information:

The day Flames of Giving began in Winter 1995.

The day Flames of Giving began in Winter 1995.

  • The recipient's initials

  • A brief personal description

  • The holiday gift they would like

Next, we created tags that looked like flames to symbolize the lighting of lives with hope and wrote the descriptions on them.   

We asked friends and family if they would like to “adopt a flame” and get a gift for the person described on the flame for the holidays. 

We told donors to pick “a flame” that spoke to their heart. My kids did not grow up with a grandfather so we always bought gifts for the elderly men. Twenty people donated 49 gifts that first year.

Eleven months later, we were again driving by the mall and the kids started asking, “Who will we help this year?” Our friends called wondering if we were doing the “flames-thing” again this year. So I said, “Sure, why not." And the rest is history!

Knowing our client struggles and challenges, and then seeing what is delivered from Flames of Giving, is one of the BEST parts of working here during the holidays. The thought that goes into these gifts is immense and truly appreciated. I love knowing that a family will be able to go to the movies or a grandmother can take her grandchildren out for a bite of food.”
— Lauryn Tuchman, Director of Clinical Services at JFCSNNJ

What We've Achieved TogetheR 

  • Over 17,500 gifts in total given in 24 years. 

  • Supported over 36 partner organizations.

  • Partnered with 23 donor giving circles, businesses, and organizations who provided gifts.

  • A growing focus on underserved and impoverished communities

  • Donated 49 gifts in 1995 to 2054 gifts in 2018.

  • More than half of our annual list provides holiday gifts for children.

We now provide gifts all year long through our special giving initiatives like the Birthday Present Project, Centerpieces For a Cause, Handmade Giving Project and Caring For the Caregiver.

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