Project expands with Christmas cheer

Published 10:33 pm Thursday, December 13, 2018

What started as a philanthropic event for local resident Adria Mason-Exantus has grown into an event that will provide Christmas gifts for more than 60 children in Suffolk.

Mason-Exantus volunteers every year with shelters in Suffolk like the Genieve Shelter, but this year she saw a bigger need this holiday season.

“I saw the need was greater this year when I talked to the local shelters,” Mason-Exantus said. “People in the community reached out, and it started with filling a shoe box for a child. Then it quickly became any size box.”

Email newsletter signup

Mason-Exantus received names from the Genieve Shelter, and after a Facebook post she received even more names from other children in need in the Suffolk community.

It didn’t take long for her to realize she was going to need help, and her community didn’t disappoint her.

“Normally I do what I can, but once I talked to the shelter and got a list, I realized it was more than I can handle,” Mason-Exantus said. “The post on Facebook caught people’s eye, and they decided to donate and help serve the community.”

Businesses and Suffolk citizens took it upon themselves to fill various sized boxes with all sorts of presents for these kids.

Mason-Exantus had no problem recruiting friends to join the cause, either.

“I reached out to some people to do this, and they were elated to join the project. Once I asked, they said yes and started inviting their friends,” Mason-Exantus said.

The children provided lists of their favorite colors, their clothes and shoe sizes and their desired toy. The lists were given to those willing to donate so they can provide gifts.

The only challenge that Mason-Exantus really faced was finding gifts for the older children, who tend to want more expensive items.

Mason-Exantus, members of her church and employees from Suffolk Eye Physicians will wrap the presents on Saturday. They will begin delivering the presents in the community on Saturday, and the presents for the shelter will be dropped off at the shelter’s office on Monday to be distributed by the staff. They cannot deliver presents for those with the Genieve Shelter, because most are in protected housing.

With the success Mason-Exantus saw this holiday season, she plans to keep it going next year. She has now called the toy donation the Fill the Box Project.