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Oma’s Heart brings love to those in need

December 13, 2017
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Not every family is going to wake up on Christmas morning with a pile of presents under the tree.

For many families, Christmas might as well be just another day. The kids don't get presents, there's no big dinner on the table, and there generally isn't much to be merry about.

Thankfully, there are many organizations that are trying to give less fortunate families the opportunity to have a wonderful holiday.

Article Photos

From left, elves Rosalina Marquez, Felicita Lozada, Leah Gonzalez, Miggie Castro, Jennifer Wilson and Sue Barczak at the Oma’s Heart event at North Fort Myers High School on Saturday.


On Saturday, at North Fort Myers High School, Oma's Heart brought in 350 families to shop for presents with the help of more than 200 volunteers from throughout Southwest Florida.

Oma's Heart was created to offer parents the ability to provide Christmas gifts for their children with the help of volunteers who provide cost-free merchandise. This renews a sense of Christmas spirit that tends to evaporate in difficult times, according to their mission statement.

Audrey McFalls, founder of Oma's Heart, started the faith-based organization in 2010 as a way for the parents to shop for the kids.

"We thought let's open a toy store and not charge anything. We invite families through the Lee County School District, Hope Hospice, ACT, DCF, Safe Families and tons of other organizations and agencies," McFalls said. "We have people come out of the woodwork to help us."

North High had members of the ROTC, student government and Interact.

Oma, which is Dutch for Grandma, offers refreshments, a prayer area where they can get a Bible if they don't have one, and elves will take them to the toy store. The entire process takes two hours, with volunteers there from early in the morning to about 8 p.m.

Carly Burch, head elf and a member of the group's board of directors, said it was an awesome experience.

"It shows how much the community really does care. We help parents find toys for the kids," Burch said. "The amount of families continues to grow as does the outreach. Where we were in the beginning to now is just awesome."

The toys were laid out on tables according to the age of their child. Many toys were warehoused in the corner of the main gymnasium so tables on their way to being empty could be filled up again. Each child gets two gifts, along with stocking stuffers, stuffed animals and more.

Meanwhile, for the teen crowd, there was Plato's closet, where teens could get fashionable, gently used blouses, bags, shoes and skirts, enough for an outfit.

"It's a great way to get rid of old clothes and get some new ones as well. It's a fun experience to work here," said Anna Langerman a volunteer at Plato's. "I'm grateful to have this experience to help out our community and seeing the smiles put on their faces."

The parents would then go get their presents wrapped. That was where college students from First Assembly Church of Fort Myers were stationed.

Alona Green, of the Florida School of Discipleship in Fort Myers, said this is part of their outreach program.

"This is the first time we've teamed with Oma's Heart. It's awesome how they get the parents to pick out the presents instead of getting random gifts," Green said.

Meanwhile, the kids were in the auxiliary gymnasium having fun, playing Twister, doing arts and crafts and keeping occupied with the help of volunteers.

"If we can remove a burden for these families. This is what we want to do," McFalls said. "My mother devoted her life to kids and it was very easy to come up with a name for this."



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