A group of four adults wearing red coats stand in front of a table of holiday food. They are smiling and giving thumbs up to the camera.

For 20 years Laurie, Jackie, and Doug have hosted a tea party on American Thanksgiving weekend where they invite their family and friends to bring a donation for a local charity. It’s a way to keep the memory of their parents alive while also giving back to the community they love.

“Over the Christmas holidays our father would always give a fifty-dollar bill to anyone collecting donations outside Barton Centre Mall,” Jackie reminisces along with her sister, Laurie, and brother, Doug, at a coffee shop near Barton Street. “He was a truck driver and didn’t have extra money very often, so he never told our mother about his donations,” Jackie says with a laugh. “Our father was very generous,” Laurie chimes in. “One time he hired a man who was homeless and invited him to live with us. Our grandmother, his mother, was the same way.”

For twenty years Jackie, Laurie, and Doug have continued their family’s tradition of giving back over the holidays. They’ve also put their own spin on it. Every American Thanksgiving weekend – Laurie, a truck-driver following in her father’s footsteps, always has this weekend off – they host a tea party and invite all of their friends and family to bring a donation for a local charity. Beforehand, they call the charities they plan to donate to and ask what they need most. Usually, it’s new socks, shampoo, gloves, and deodorant. In recent years, they’ve started to get more strategic and start buying items throughout the year whenever they go on sale. One time, Jackie found a bin of winter toques at a swimsuit store for eighty-percent off. “I cleared them out!” she says laughing.

“…small acts of kindness can make a difference.”

This November they collected enough donations and money to put together over 100 care packages. They donated them to Mission Services’ emergency shelter as well as a local youth shelter, a shelter in St. Catharines, and a veteran’s centre. “The thing is, you don’t have to be rich to start something good,” Jackie explains. “We started small and it’s grown over time. That’s why we do it: because small acts of kindness can make a difference. And it’s fun!”

Over forty people came to their last tea party. “Some people only know each other from the tea party,” says Laurie. “They’re neighbours, colleagues, old friends from school. And now even my grandchildren join in. It’s nice to see it all come full circle.”

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