When Stella Michel was in Grade 12 she moved out of her family home to live with her aunt, who treated her amazingly when she didn’t have to do so.
It gave her a sense of how people can make a difference in other people’s lives without expecting recognition or something in return.
She also says her dad was the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back if it meant helping somebody out.
Michel figured the best thing she could do is pay it forward.
Back in 2015, Michel made a New Year’s Resolution. She vowed to do something for somebody unsuspecting for every week of the year with a project she called 52 Weeks, 52 People.
Realizing after one year that is pretty tough to keep up the pace of doing something every week, she decided to continue her giving way but opted to begin a new project called 12 Months, 12 Miracles where she did something a little bigger every month.
It’s the only New Year’s resolution she never broke. That has been the best resolution she could have ever kept.
During the month of December, Michel is spreading the holiday spirit by filling stockings for residents of Xavier House in Corner Brook.
“(It is) to make somebody smile, and to spread cheer and kindness, and to see all the happy tears — it is the best hobby in the world,” she said.
Christmas is a time where families exchange gifts and well wishes for the holiday season and offer the best for the year to follow.
Some people have very little. Some don’t know what it’s like to wake up with a gift under the tree or enjoy a hot meal with loved ones around the table.
Michel has never forgotten the kindness of her dad when she was growing up.
As long as there are people who need a helping hand, she plans on being there to make a difference just like she was taught to do so many years ago.
McGinn believes there are many ways to help and you only have to find one
Jennifer McGinn remembers being a small child in the back seat of the car during Christmas when her dad would pull up to a house, run up to somebody’s doorstep, leave a gift and run away with the hope nobody saw him.
McGinn would giggle and liked being part of it even though she didn’t fully understand the magnitude of what her dad was willing to do without recognition.
“He always did it without anybody knowing where these gifts came from,” McGinn said of the fond memory she has thought about from time to time.
McGinn, who lives in Corner Brook, is doing her part to try to make the difference in the world when it comes to spreading the Christmas spirit and doing what she can to help those who are less fortunate.
She oversees the Comfort Bags Project for Willow House and is helping provide Christmas for a number of individual families.
Her family didn’t have much when she was growing up, she said, yet her parents always had a heart for the people who had even less. If her family had it, they always took the approach that they had something to spare.
“It’s become part of who I am and I’m very thankful for my parents for that,” she said. “I’m not making a choice. It’s part of who I am. I love people and my heart is connected with other people. … There’s a hundred ways to help people and you just have to find one.”
She doesn’t do anything to receive accolades. She believes it’s her responsibility to what she can to be a supportive member of her community.
“It is wonderful to give a little piece of hope back to families, but the biggest thing for me is for them to know that somebody loves them and that there are people out there who really care about them,” she said. “It’s about letting somebody know they are loved and there’s no better feeling than that.”
Woodfine loves to do her part to ensure everybody enjoys Christmas
Amazing things can happen when the right people recognize a chance to make a positive impact on somebody who could really use a helping hand.
Paula Woodfine had a conversation with an elderly woman back in 2015 that made her realize the world needs to know people really do care about those who don’t have as much as them.
Woodfine was walking around the gymnasium floor at the Stephenville YMCA when the woman opened up to her about the dilemma she was facing at Christmas.
The woman's daughter was not able to provide Christmas for her two small children. She was upset that her grandchildren weren't going to have new clothes or toys.
Woodfine was touched by the story so she did something about it. She started a Facebook campaign called From the Heart to Moms, a group that now has 180 members, for the purpose of collecting gently used toys and clothes to deliver to those who needed them during the holiday season.
When the festive season rolls around, Woodfine and her supporting cast put out feelers to see who was in need of help.
They would find out exactly what the family needed and do everything to make it happen.
It’s the fourth year for Woodfine and she’s just happy to do her part to make a difference.
“I believe that everybody should have an opportunity to enjoy Christmas, the true meaning of Christmas and the spirit of giving, and I think every child should wake up with something under the Christmas tree,” she said. “I believe they should understand that there is still hope in humanity, there is still people who care and that they’re not alone.”
She enjoys what she is doing, but she also heaped praise on the people in the community who have embraced the idea of giving back to those less fortunate. This year, she said, the hope was for enough stuff to provide a good Christmas for a single mom with two young children, but the response was large enough to provide for five families.
“It just feels so good to know you’re making a difference and we’re working together as a team, too,” she said.