By Emma Harris,
Ding-dong! The doorbell echoed through the apartment of a Cesar Chavez Plaza resident. It was Dec. 24, 2013, and he was not looking forward to spending another Christmas alone.
He got up and walked to the door, opened it and saw Maddie Paschal, now a seventh grader at Da Vinci, standing outside. She was wearing a Santa hat, and her cheeks were rosy from the cold, but she was smiling and holding out a plate of cookies and a $10 gift card.
Every year, Synda Whitmer and Lisa Paschal, with the help of their friends and family, make good cheer packages for the residents of Cesar Chavez Plaza, an affordable housing apartment complex in downtown Davis. The good cheer packages have a plate of cookies and a $10 gift card to somewhere in downtown Davis.
“It can be a really sad time of year for a lot of these folks,” Paschal said. “We’re just giving them a little cheer. The community has been phenomenal; [there has been] a phenomenal response to it. So there’s never been an issue of giving enough, from this community.”
Whitmer and Paschal usually start by sending out an email to the people they know, asking them to contribute a dozen cookies and a $10 gift card. The cookies are then dropped off at Paschal’s house. “Our house becomes cookie central for awhile,” Paschal said.
Once they have all the cookies and gift cards, there is a cookie-wrapping party at Cesar Chavez Plaza, where the cookies are mixed up so everybody gets a little bit of everything, then placed on a nice plate with one of the gift cards attached.
Then, Whitmer and Paschal, with their families and sometimes other kids, walk around to each apartment, delivering the good cheer packages.
“The residents love it; they look forward to it all year,” Whitmer said.
Good cheer packages also go to the boys at Progress Ranch, and starting this year, some of the homeless people in Davis received them as well. If there are leftover cookies, they go to the homeless shelters.
“It’s to sort of give people what everybody deserves, a sense of community and just [to make] them feel special,” Whitmer said.
Paschal’s daughters Maddie and Audrey and Whitmer’s son Aspen also help out.
“Kids, my kids, are always like buy me, buy me, buy me, get me, get me, get me and everything comes towards them, so I like to find activities where they give and help others,” Paschal said.
“I think it’s actually critical for [Aspen]. It’s a very important part of our family and what he does, just giving back to people. I also think it’s really important for all of the kids to come, if they’re able and interested,” Whitmer said.
Over 95.4 percent of Americans give to charity in some way, according to the National Philanthropic Trust.
People choose to give to charity for a lot of reasons, but a big part of that is “that humans are hardwired to enjoy the act of helping others,” according to Sean Stannard-Stockton, a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy.
“I think I’m learning about helping others and making differences in the world,” Maddie said. “It makes me feel good.”
“I feel like I’m doing something to help other people, so it makes me feel good,” said Aspen, also a seventh grader.