There’s nothing better than being able to watch a child open a gift you’ve wrapped for them. Now imagine you weren’t able to give your children a gift, and on top of that you were escaping a violent/abusive relationship at home so you were living in a shelter or some sort of transitional housing.
That’s where “Present Now” steps in. Erica Fisher and Melanie Neumann started the non-profit organization to help provide some joy and alleviate some of the stress these children might be feeling.
Three times a year “Present Now” gives presents to children staying in long-term transitional shelters or short-term crisis intervention shelters.
In August children are gifted with a new backpack filled with school supplies.
On Valentine’s Day kids are given an age appropriate digital toy and/or learning device. For example, Leapfrog, Kindle and Apple products. The day I helped we were wrapping digital cameras.
On their birthday, based on the individual shelter’s wishes, the box will contain ingredients for a homemade cake, a restaurant gift card for the family to enjoy a birthday dinner out on the town. With input from the shelter staff and the moms the children are also given a new toy, a new outfit and a book.
How did Present Now come about?
Melanie: PRESENT NOW was born out of the desire of two friends to partner together and be of service to others on a project that we are mutually passionate about; bringing a glimmer of joy to children living in transitional domestic violence shelters.
What differentiates you from other charities for moms and children?
Erica: PRESENT NOW is unique because of the design of our PRESENTS PROGRAM. When we gift to the children, we put thought and care into each and every individual gift. It’s very personalized and catered to their age and sex. Everything is NEW and specifically designed to bring them joy and comfort during a time of immense crisis.
What is your favorite part of the organization?
Melanie: Knowing that what we created in PRESENT NOW is helping children and mothers find joy in moments that otherwise they could not. I love delivering the gifts to the shelters with my own children. Giving them the opportunity to help wrap and deliver the gifts is a gift in itself. Everyone should know what it feels like to help those less fortunate.
What is the most memorable moment or feedback from someone you’ve helped?
Erica: The most memorable feedback was hearing that for a birthday gift, a mom in the shelter baked a cake using our cake mix and frosting. We heard it was the first time her child had ever had birthday cake. That was an incredibly heartbreaking and inspiring moment for us.
How can people get involved?
Melanie: There are numerous ways you can volunteer for us! We do gift wrapping 6 times per year. And once the gifts are wrapped and ready to go, we can always use help with deliveries! Our Women’s Weekend Event takes place each January and we are always in need of volunteers to help with event production. Finally, donations are always welcome from financial to product donations. For more information, visit our website: www.presentnow.org.
How do you balance being moms and this career?
Melanie: Being able to set my own work schedule makes a huge difference when you have a family. I have a senior moment at least once a day… but somehow everyone gets where they need to be on time! Honestly, it takes a village and my kids are heavily involved in activities outside of school so I am lucky to have help. My husband, Michael, works in the busy world of finance is also very hands on. I feel extremely fortunate that I am able to be present with our children in the mornings and after school and work in between!
Erica: Work/family balance is always a challenge. My husband is incredibly supportive and is the person I turn to when I’m feeling overwhelmed and overscheduled. He never hesitates to jump in and do whatever needs to be done to make sure our kids and household are running smoothly.
Also, staying super organized is my number one secret to keeping all the different balls in the air. I still use an old-fashioned Day-Timer with a ballpoint pen and white-out. Very analog, but works for me.
Favorite way to spend a day in Los Angeles?
Melanie: First, I would be working out either at the gym or at the beach. Staying active and healthy have always been super important to me. Going on a hike, to the beach or just being home always makes me happy! And ending the day at one of our favorite local spots for dinner. When we can all be together as a family, no matter what we are doing makes my day special.
Erica: My perfect day would start with a long restorative walk on the beach. I would then pick up breakfast for my kids and husband at Sidecar. Absolutely the best donuts in LA. I’m really a homebody so after my walk, I would go home and spend the day with my husband and kids. We love inviting over our children’s godparents! We would swim, cook, eat, laugh, relax and play all day!
What is the best advice anyone ever has given you?
Melanie: Be open to everything life may bring your way, but always stay true to yourself and your roots.
Erica: The best advice I ever have received is to always be my authentic self, follow my intuition, and don’t be afraid to hear the word no.
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