The idea to create a nonprofit foundation tied to the Christmas Jar movement first hit me almost six years ago.
I met with an attorney, an accountant and even received a few seed money donations from goodhearted friends who knew what I was up to and wanted to see the foundation take flight.
The idea was simple: Spread the Christmas Jar tradition through public and private schools, churches, corporations, retail establishments and like-minded nonprofits.
A friend in public relations wrote some marketing copy and my talented brother, Jeff, brainstormed on mission statements and mottos. I even developed the website. Everything was primed and ready; everything was just right for the big day.
And then it wasn't.
Something tugged at the long sleeves of my senses and insisted I wait. Everything felt right; everything but the timing.
I explained to my closest friends and family that something wasn't quite there, my instincts were standing in the way of the launch button and the Christmas Jar movement needed a little more time to breathe.
A year came and went. Then another, and another, then two more passed us by. It's been five years since I returned those pioneer donations and put the foundation on hold.
Now, finally, I'm thrilled to announce that the time is right. The movement has far surpassed the book that launched it, a fact that brings me great satisfaction.
It is time to introduce the Christmas Jars Foundation.
One of the foundation’s primary goals will be to make the message, the book and jars available in public and private schools. School libraries often contact me and request book donations, lesson plans and school visits. Having been in so many schools, I can attest to the financial struggles they face each day.
Many, many teachers have contacted me. They ask about buying books by the dozens with hard-earned money squeezed from their own modest paychecks. They want them for one class, sometimes two, and often for an entire grade level. Maybe they want them for student body leaders and after-school clubs.
The publisher and I always sell books at the biggest discounts possible. But for schools, even copies sold "at cost" is a high hurdle.
If it's not schools seeking support to create their own Christmas Jars initiative, it’s churches. Wonderful men and women from many different denominations and congregations seek help. They need supplies, help with public or media relations and occasionally they want me to visit their church and hit the launch button myself.
I’ve been humbled to speak to Methodists, Mormons, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Catholics and even the Knights of Columbus.
The new foundation, working with the publisher, will provide books free of charge to as many churches or other nonprofit organizations as possible. I have committed to waive all royalties on books distributed and sold through these efforts.
If it's not schools or churches seeking assistance, it’s small businesses. I've heard from everyone from hair salons to family-owned newspapers to country stores. They are among the most wonderful, humble and hardworking people, and they desperately want to join us in spreading the spirit of the Christmas Jar.
Our efforts will create and affordably provide whatever materials they need to begin their own Christmas Jars initiative in the communities they know and love the most: their own.
Finally, the foundation will be ready and willing to place emergency jars at any time of year. I look forward, as an example, to the day when I might board a plane to visit a family in a far-flung city whose house has burned down and who's left without one of the most important anchors in the world: a home.
Yes, they will need our financial assistance, but equally important is the need to know that you and I and the members of their community are aware of them. What a blessing for them to know that in their darkest hour, no matter what the calendar might say, the spirit of Christmas has found them.
Over the coming weeks and months of the Christmas Jars Foundation launch, I'll be attending fundraisers around the country asking for help and sharing some of the incredibly inspirational stories of real families, of real people affected and changed by this organic movement.
If nothing else, I hope you'll be involved in our work in the simplest way by joining the thousands of us around the country who have jars on our counters today.
Fill your jar with change and fill it with love. Then prayerfully find a worthy recipient and give it away this Christmas. But be aware that those who breathe in the Christmas Jar spirit are never quite the same.
If you'd like to organize such an event or a speaking engagement at your place of work, church or school, please contact my office at 540-459-9002.