Santa greets children at the annual party.
This Family Christmas Plan, which is a particular favorite of Lisa Gismondi’s, is funded by the Foundation and administered by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The program typically serves 30 to 40 families each year, and its goal is to provide financial incentives for them to develop a “plan” for their Christmas holiday which will help them make the holiday more affordable and less stressful. The program also provides incentives for children to perform community activities or random acts of kindness in the neighborhood to earn credits that may be used to buy gifts for their parents or siblings. In particular, the program helps families learn how to:
• design a budget to help pay bills
• use available resources wisely
• create memorable family traditions
• teach children that “giving” is as rewarding as “getting”
In the two to three months preceding Christmas, the families work to create their “plan” for the upcoming holidays by creating a budget, planning holiday meals and celebrations, arranging gift exchanges, creating family traditions, etc. All of this is done for the purpose of reducing the stress and financial burden that can often put a damper on the spirit of the holiday season.
“Christmas has always been my favorite time of year,” says Lisa Gismondi, “and I am glad that we were able to create a program with Catholic Charities to help less fortunate families relieve some of the burden and stress of the holiday season. I know first-hand how overwhelming Christmas can be, and we want to help in some small way to make it more enjoyable for these families and their children.”
The “plan” culminates with a holiday gathering arranged by Catholic Charities and The Gismondi Foundation during which the participating families receive all of their earned “rewards” for creating and sticking to their season plan, and they also enjoy a full meal, music, various arts and crafts, and gifts.
Catholic Charities considers the program a resounding success:
According to Susan Raucher, Executive Director of Catholic Charities, “The Gismondi Foundation invested in a new, untested project that became the successful annual Family Christmas Plan. . . . Without the support of The Gismondi Foundation many families would still be patching Christmas together and then struggling for months to catch up . . . . Families who successfully navigate this program not only provide holiday traditions in a more responsible way but find a greater path to greater stability all year, forever changing their family patterns.”