Group helps out needy kids

Published on December 27, 2011
Ken Hatfield (far left, representing the Shriners), Major Peter Rowe of the Salvation Army and Jim Stockman (from the Shriners) chat with clients of Yarmouth Life Skills for Disabled Adults. The clients – Jessica Amirault, Ryan Nickerson, Elizabeth Ellis, Annette Poole and Todd Haggerty – are pictured with bags of gifts to be donated to the Salvation Army for its children’s Christmas gift program. Eric Bourque photo

By Eric Bourque



A chain reaction of giving afforded a group of people a chance to experience the pleasure of doing something for others and will help make the holidays a little brighter for some local children.

Five clients of the Yarmouth Life Skills for Disabled Adults organization got to do some Christmas shopping last week. Each was buying gifts for a specific child under the Salvation Arm’s Christmas hamper program. The Life Sills clients were purchasing the gifts with money donated to the Life Skills group by the Shriners.

This is the way it started, in a nutshell anyway: Sherry Robertson, executive director of the Life Skills organization, was having a business meeting with Jim Stockman, who happens to be involved in the Shriners. The Salvation Army had been in the news recently because it was struggling with its effort to gather Christmas gifts for children. There were lots of kids on the list, plenty of gifts to buy and not much time left.

Robertson told Stockman what she had heard about the Salvation Army’s plight and Stockman informed her that the Shriners had money that could be given to the Life Skiils people and then used to buy presents for kids on the Salvation Army’s Christmas list.

Discussing the initiative in an interview, Robertson said the Life Sills clients were happy to take part and that the experience seemed to help them develop a better appreciation for the Christmas spirit.

Each of the clients selected to participate was assigned a particular child to buy for and they became, in a sense, attached to that child, even if they didn’t know them personally, Robertson said.

“They were so excited,” she said, “and then we had lunch out together and I heard them talking to different people about what they were doing or they’d be at the cash (register) and somebody would say ‘that’s a lot of stuff’ and they’d share the story. Two staff went, two staff from here. We divided the group into boys and girls and one went shopping with the guys and one with the girls. It was just a lot of fun.”

This would have been the first time the clients had a chance to do this sort of thing, she said, and it proved to be a wonderful experience for them.

“Our motto is helping people live and work with dignity,” she said, “and this is a part of life, living with dignity, giving of yourself, helping somebody else outside of your own realm, and that’s what Christmas is all about.”

She spoke of something one of the clients said to her as they were driving back.

Looking at Robertson, the young man said, “Sherri, that’s what Christmas is, Christmas is about giving, not getting. I feel really, really happy.”

Happy too, of course, was the Salvation Army, whose children’s Christmas gift campaign was in much better shape by mid-December than it had been just a week or so earlier.

 Referring to the gifts received from the Yarmouth Life Skills group, Major Peter Rowe of the Salvation Army in Yarmouth said it was a great example of charitable organizations working together.

“The Shriners got to make the donation, which is what they do,” he said. “The Shriners gave it to Life Skills, Life Skills in turn gave it to their clients, the clients went out shopping and then they in turn gave (the gifts that were purchased) to us for us to give to the community.”

The process actually involved another group as well: the Tri-County Betterment Association.

Said Jim Stockman, president of the Sou’West Shrine Club, “It involved a whole network of win-win for everybody.”