10.1.2020

My Dear Friends,

I think of you all frequently, as we continue our new daily reality of fear and uncertainty. How could we ever have imagined? It speaks volumes to the resilient capacity of our minds, as they work hard to process the extreme catastrophic overload.  We must continue to take care of ourselves and each other as we face what seems insurmountable. I believe we need to embrace gratitude more than ever before as we continue to help those less fortunate. 

This time last year, I was in touch with so many of you as we sorted orders and planned for the upcoming holiday. We were anxiously awaiting our beautiful letters to Santa, which were late, due to a teachers strike. If only we could reverse time and that was all we had to worry about now. 

It breaks my heart that we can not run in the usual manner this year. Between remote learning and Covid, it would be virtually impossible to get letters. It also wouldn’t be wise from a public health perspective. I will miss them terribly, as I know you will too. After almost 20 years, it’s hard to imagine Christmas without them. 

Letters to Santa is extremely close to my heart, as I know it is yours. We still very much plan to help as many children as we can, it just won’t be in the the way that we are used to. We will instead be collecting and distributing gift cards. 

We are currently working with our schools and will be identifying families most in need. As you can imagine, this is a difficult task because so many people are hurting right now. Unfortunately we can’t help them all, but we will do our best to help as many as possible.

Our plan is to start with our disabled schools. I’ve always felt that these were the kids who needed us the most. The above picture was taken last year at one of them, Southside Occupational High School, my all time favorite school. It is the only high school in our program and these are the most grateful students I have ever seen. There is more love in that building alone than I can possibly express to you. I’m going to miss Christmas at Southside more than anything. I was grateful to recently hear that the students are doing well with remote learning, in spite of their disabilities.

We are working with numerous principles who will help us distribute the gift cards with an emphasis on whole families, as opposed to individual students.

While we covered 10,000 children last year, our numbers this year will be based on the donations received between now and Christmas. 

In an effort to make shopping easy and accessible, we are asking for gift cards from either Target, Amazon, Walmart, Aldi or Jewel grocery stores. We will also accept McDonalds as a way of offering a treat to children in this difficult time. Many are suffering beyond our comprehension and something like a meal at McDonald’s could be of great comfort to them right now. These are probably best purchased in five dollar increments. 

Other gift cards can be from $25-$100. Please avoid Visa gift cards, as they are often associated with unnecessary fees. If you know for sure there are no fees involved, then we will happily accept those as well. 

I know that many of you act as your office or neighborhood iaison for the program and would appreciate if you could forward this newsletter to your coworkers and friends who may not receive it. With so many offices closed, we really need your help to reach out to those who may not know how to contact us. This is why we attach a charity cover letter to each child’s letter every year, but sometimes they are removed before the doner gets the letter and we are hoping to reach as many of our regular Santa’s as possible. You can find a web-based link at the bottom of this email as well, so it is easily shared on social media.

We are also in great need of financial support. Typically we make it through the year with donations received at Christmas, but they have been down the last few years. As a result, I have had to cover most of the charity expenses this year, and am months behind on my rent. I have applied for various grants and I am hopeful one or more of them will come through. I remain in touch with my landlord and hope that he will not evict me. I don’t know what I will do if that happens, but for now, I must remain hopeful. I live on disability and I’m not eligible for unemployment nor have I found any support for small nonprofits like ours. Coronavirus has taken it’s toll on us,  just as it has on so many across the city. 

Donations can be made using Zelle with our phone number. 312.296.5311 or Venmo @direct-effect-charities. We no longer have a PayPal account due to it being hacked. Checks and gift cards can be mailed to;

Direct Effect Charities 
4044 N Lincoln
#400
Chicago, IL. 60618


I would be extremely grateful for any help at all. In the meantime, I will continue to work my hardest to help as many kids as we can. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of need in our world today. 

We have done this work for nearly 20 years and I will do everything in my power to keep us alive. What we do is very important and I know it touches you as much or more than it touches the recipients of your generosity. I know that we all put our heart and soul into this charity and more than anything, I wish to continue. 

Samara is currently living in California and I miss her terribly. She didn’t return home after graduation and now shares an apartment with two roommates in Studio City. She works as a postmate, while she waits for the film industry to open up again. She will be covering several schools this year, one in Orange County and one in south-central LA. If you know anybody in California who would like to participate, please let me know and I will add them to her newsletter, which will go out next week. The gift cards she will be collecting are a little bit different than the ones in Chicago and those will come from California donors. Several of our companies in Chicago have offices in California and I hope that they will participate once again as well.

We are working on the creation of an inexpensive guided meditation device, which I hope to promote via Kickstarter in November. For each one purchased, we will give one away to someone in need. I am grateful to have some of the best meditation teachers in the world working with us and I’m excited to introduce what we have come up with. My original idea was to use MP3 players, but our device is more practical and dedicated. 

As you know, meditation has saved my life and I am sure it can help so many others during these difficult times. I hope that many of you have checked out Insight Timer and are already benefiting from some of their wonderful teachers. I learned very quickly when I couldn’t get out of my broken body, I needed to get out of my mind. Meditation is to the mind what exercise is to the body and I am so grateful to be able to not only experience, but share it with others as well.

Please let me know if you have any questions at all. I am always here, although afternoon and early evening’s are often the best time to reach me by phone. Like many of you, I have morphed into an odd schedule, and it often involves being up late into the evening.

Please keep yourself well and take care of those you love. We need to do more now than ever before and I am grateful for our direct effect family. We have made a huge difference in this world, changed and even saved lives. This is no doubt what we were put on this earth to do. Thank you so much for joining me.

With love and gratitude,

Michelle DiGiacomo
Founder
Direct Effect Charities
312.296.5311


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Something to remember from Christmas' past

“As human beings we essentially belong to the same family and we have to think of each other as part of ‘us’. To develop peace in the world, we have to educate people to understand that we are all the same in being human” ~Dalai Lama

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