Mom’s legacy of giving lives on through Christmas outreach
By Mark Griffin
Joni Meyer remembers her mother, Joan, as an incredibly giving woman.
“She was a very, very loving person,” said Joni, a Sylvania resident. “That was the hardest thing for all of us. Her life was focused around us four kids and her grandkids.
“She worked at the Genoa Care Center, and it was all about helping the older people. There was something about Christmas that was extremely special,” she said. “She always did things at the Care Center. She would buy special gifts for the residents and do things for the nursing home.”
On Oct. 11, 1998 – almost one year to the date she was diagnosed – Joan Meyer succumbed to kidney cancer. She died at age 56, but Joan’s daughter wanted to make sure her mother’s spirit lived on. And so Joan’s Miracle CHRISTmas, a Christian-based non-profit organization established by Joni and her husband, Jamie Crothers, was born.
Joan’s Miracle CHRISTmas exists for the sole purpose of helping needy children and families, Joni said.“It helps us help my mom live on,” she said. “We have a big picture of her with the poem underneath it. It takes the void of my mom being gone because we do feel her presence with us that day. I feel through her life, we’re touching all these other lives, too. In the nine years we’ve done it, we’ve probably helped over 300 to 400 children.”
Joan Meyer’s poem, titled, “The Legacy,” goes as follows:
“When I die, give what is left of me to children.
If you need to cry, cry for your brothers walking beside you.
Put your arms around anyone and give them what you need to give to me.
I want to leave you with something, something better than words or sounds.
Look for me in the people I have known and loved.
And if you cannot live without me, then let me live on in your eyes,
Your mind and your acts of kindness.
You can love me most by letting hands touch hands.
Love does not die, people do.
So when all that is left of me is love. . .
Give me away …”
One year after Joan’s passing, Joan’s Miracle CHRISTmas worked with the Salvation Army to deliver items to three needy families. For the past several years, Joni and her husband have used their own funds to throw a Christmas party in the name of Joan’s Miracle CHRISTmas.
They rent the Bayside Boardwalk on Seaman Road in Oregon, and choose families who can attend the party based on recommendations from the East Toledo Family Center.
“They have social workers who go into homes to see the living conditions,” Joni said. “This year over half of our kids we took in don’t have beds. They sleep right on the floor. We tell (the Family Center) we needed the neediest of needy families.
“One child who is 10 has brain cancer. A 2-year-old has a heart condition and one of the parents can’t work. We really went through a thorough screening through the Family Center. They saw the living conditions and saw
Joni said the first year the organization threw a Christmas party, they “took in” 15-18 children. “We rent a hall and bring families to the hall,” she said. “Most of them don’t have vehicles, so we have to pick them up. They come in and they decorate cookies. Then they eat a hot meal and hear the story of Jesus’ birth.
“Santa Claus comes in and they get one gift from Santa,” she added. “Then we have boxes full of coats, boots, bedding, beds, clothing and each child gets at least eight to 10 toys.”
Joni and her husband know all about children. The have three of their own and have adopted six others, including two from Haiti. The children in Joni and Jamie’s household range from six months to 19 years old.
“We just love kids,” Joni said. “We knew we could have more kids ourselves, but there are too many kids out there that need somebody to love them.”
Joan said that she and her husband used to pay for the Joan’s Miracle CHRISTmas party with money out of their own pockets. Now, they need help.
“Now it’s to the point that it’s gotten so big and we know the need out there is so tremendous,” Joan said. “We want to get other people involved to know about the needs and come forward and help participate in some way.
“There is a tremendous need out there where these families need help,” she said.
Joan is hoping for the public to become more involved in Joan’s Miracle CHRISTmas by way of a donation. To learn more about the non-profit organization, visit www.miraclechristmas.com or call 419-885-0131.
Donations, in the form of a check or money order, may be mailed to Joan’s Miracle CHRISTmas, Genoa Bank, 801 Main St., Genoa, 43430.
“The Bible says it is more blessed to give than to receive,” Joni said, “and when you leave the party you are just as blessed as the people on the receiving end. That is truly what CHRISTmas is about.”