Lily Cummings (center) began donating to Moving in the Spirit’s Holiday Store when she was four years old.
Her grandmother, Gayle Cummings, had supported Moving in the Spirit and the store for many years. A believer in philanthropy, Gayle decided when her grandchildren were born that she would use the Holiday Store to teach them about the importance of giving back to their community.
“I introduce my grandchildren to the Holiday Store when they’re four years old. I tell all of them, even the youngest one, that I want them to earn their gift money themselves,” says Gayle. “I’ll even give them chores to do so they can earn something. After they’ve saved, I’ll take them shopping so they can pick out gifts themselves, and I’ll explain how their gifts will impact other children just like them.”
For those unfamiliar, the Holiday Store is a beloved annual event at Moving in the Spirit. Students earn “points” all year long for meeting commitments and personal goals in class, then use those points to “buy” holiday gifts for their families and loved ones.
Lily took to the spirit of the Holiday Store right away, and soon began asking if she could do more. She didn’t just want to donate, she wanted to volunteer.
Lily waited patiently for several years until finally, in 2013, her grandmother said she was old enough to sign up for a volunteer shift at the store.
The experience, according to Lily, was transformative.
A Joyful Day
“It made me feel amazing,” says Lily. “There were so many faces just gleaming with joy. The children were smiling, laughing and picking out toys. They were so nice, and they made sure to get something for everyone in their families.”
Lily served as a personal shopper at the store, helping five-year-old and three-year-old dancers. She quickly made friends with Zora, a young lady from Moving in the Spirit’s Junior Company who had also volunteered her time to help younger dancers at the store. Together, they helped several children select gifts for their loved ones and wrap their presents.
“We were supposed to be there for two hours,” says Gayle, “but when our volunteer hours ended, Lily said, ‘I just cannot leave. We have to stay longer.’”
Lily was so moved by her experience, she declared upon leaving her volunteer shift that she would spend the next year raising money and gathering donations for the 2014 Holiday Store.
“It filled my heart with such joy,” Lily explains. “I have seen other charities where they just give people things. But this store is different. The students earn this store. It inspires them to work hard and go after their dreams.”
A Giving Spirit
True to her word, Lily has spent the past year earning money to purchase gifts for the store. In addition to her regular chores, Lily has repainted and refurbished toys her brothers no longer want, hoping to sell them on Ebay to raise funds. Later this month, Lily will present to her book club and challenge them to donate toys and gifts to the Holiday Store.
Most recently, Lily held a cupcake bake sale to raise money. “I bake because I love the accomplishment of making something. I put my bake stand right between two stop signs, so people had to stop and see me.” Lily’s passion for the Holiday Store inspired many treat-buyers to leave a little extra for their cupcakes, including one customer who left a $100 tip!
Lily hopes that her efforts will yield not only donations for Moving in the Spirit, but volunteers and life-long fans as well. “If people come here just once, they will be so inspired. It’s just an amazing place.”
How You Can Help
If you’re inspired by Lily and her generosity, join her in supporting the Holiday Store and impacting over 200 children and teens this season. Show Lily her efforts have made a difference by donating a toy or making a cash gift to the store in her honor. It’s easy — make a note on your donation intake form, or enter her name in the “dedication” field when you make an online gift.
Learn more about donating and volunteering for the Holiday Store on December 13, 2014 at http://www.movinginthespirit.org/holidaystore/.