‘Pay it forward’ effort restores Christmas spirit
December 19, 2006
Aspen, CO ColoradoCARBONDALE – Teri Bruna hates Christmas, but she is no Scrooge.It’s not so much that the Carbondale woman hates Christmas as much as what people have done to it. She’s not into buying or receiving useless gifts in a world already awash in materialism.So something struck a cord recently when Bruna saw a special episode of Oprah Winfrey’s television show. The megastar gave 300 audience members $1,000 each in gift certificates in October with the stipulation that they give it to a good cause rather than spending it on themselves of their families. It’s a concept known as paying it forward.When Bruna received a larger-than-expected Christmas bonus from her employer, the Roaring Fork Club in Basalt, she decided to pay it forward. She took $500 of the bonus and decided to contribute it to the family of Josefa Mayo.
Mayo is a 29-year-old single mom with five kids who, the Roaring Fork chapter of Habitat for Humanity selected for a new home in Carbondale. Her family is moving, possibly as soon as Sunday, into half of a duplex Habitat built.Bruna worked on the house for one day earlier this year. The Roaring Fork Club gave employees a paid day off to work on the Habitat house.Bruna was impressed with Mayo’s toughness and her determination to raise five kids in the valley properly. During their encounter, Bruna learned Mayo hoped to start savings accounts for her children.So when Bruna got the big Christmas bonus, she decided she would start those accounts. Bruna didn’t solicit other donations, but when her colleagues heard what she did, funds and in-kind donations started rolling in.”It just started snowballing into everybody saying yes,” she said.
Her boss donated an unspecified amount for gift certificates for Habitat families. Two other colleagues contributed funds, and friends contributed various gift certificates to valley businesses.The cream of the gift-giving crop came when Bruna approached a woman moving out of a Roaring Fork Club cabin to see if she had any unneeded furniture to donate. She struck paydirt. The woman donated chairs, dressers, televisions and a washer-dryer set – an estimated $4,000 in all. Aspen Moving and Storage donated the cost of moving the items from the golf club to a storage unit and will move it to the women’s homes next month.Mayo and Manuela Leal, the woman who received the other half of the Habitat duplex, looked over the furniture Tuesday evening. Whatever they don’t use will go to a Habitat for Humanity store in Grand Junction. Proceeds from sales will benefit the Roaring Fork chapter.Scott Gilbert, president of the local Habitat chapter, said Bruna sparked a giving effort that extends well beyond her friends.
“One good story leads to another,” Gilbert said. “I’ve told that story a couple of times and others have helped.”He said Bruna enjoyed the giving almost as much as Mayo enjoyed the receiving. The experience has renewed the spirit of Christmas for Bruna. She would like to organize a similar effort in the future.”I’m inspired to help people keep paying it forward,” she said.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.