WILTON, Conn. Instead of presents this year, Wilton mother and daughter Patti and Cassidy Stack asked for plane tickets to Haiti so they could volunteer at an orphanage.
The two are leaving for Haiti on Sunday, Dec. 18, for 10 days to work at the House of Gaia, an orphanage that Patti's friend founded in the spring with the nonprofit group New Life For Kids.
The orphanage opened this fall with 28 children and still needs work. And that's exactly what Patti Stack, who grew up in Norwalk, plans to do. She told them, "Whatever you need, we're happy to do."
One project already started at the orphanage is a library. Stack's company agreed to pay for the shipping of more than 100 donated books to start the endeavor. The books will arrive before Patti and Cassidy so they can start work on the library as soon as they arrive.
They're packing four suitcases full of supplies for the orphanage with a variety of items, including baby formula, socks, toy cars and vitamins, with only two backpacks to carry their personal items such as changes of clothes.
"We have tons of flashlights and batteries, everything from tarps to detergent to fly swatters," Stack said. She said that places such as the Home Depot, Walmart and Staples all donated items or gave her gift cards to purchase needed items, which she said is nearly everything at the orphanage.
Cassidy's doctor donated to their trip, giving baby formula. Patti Stack said they have been successful in getting donations of items and money.
Giving time and money is something the Stack family is familiar with although this is the first full-time volunteering they have done.
Patti's side of the family hasn't exchanged gifts for Christmas in years, instead preferring to pool their money to give to charities or paying for Patti and Cassidy's plane tickets this year. Last year, Patti Stack sponsored a child in the Democratic Republic of Congo for 16-year-old Cassidy's present.
When asked whether she felt cheated, Cassidy said no. "I think it feels so much more rewarding, just giving something to somebody else. It just makes me feel better, like you're truly participating in Christmas. Because Christmas is all about giving, and it's better to give to people who can't afford than to give to ourselves."
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.