Typically, when moms and their children flee their homes (often in the middle of the night) because of domestic violence, they have to leave their possessions behind. The nonprofit organization Present Now aims to bring comfort and joy to children living in transitional and crisis domestic violence shelters by providing them with fun and useful gifts to replace some of these possessions.
Erica Fisher and Melanie Neumann, who each have three young children, founded Present Now in 2012, and a year later began delivering age-appropriate gifts to babies through teens. The two friends, who met at their children’s preschool in Santa Monica, deliver beautifully wrapped gift boxes to 13 shelters in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties and Palm Springs.
“Presence of Mind” boxes, delivered in September, contain backpacks stuffed with notebooks, folders, paper, calculators, pencils and other school supplies. On Valentine’s Day, children receive a “Presence of Love” box containing an age-appropriate digital toy or learning device. For birthdays, children receive a personalized “Presence of Being” box. These usually contain a toy, book, outfit, gift card for a birthday dinner, and either a pre-made birthday cake or ingredients for a homemade cake to be made by the family. “We deliver our birthday gifts quarterly, so in December we deliver our January-March birthday gifts. The shelter gives the gifts to the children on their birthdays,” says Neumann.
Fundraisers and donations help provide the gifts, which are collected and wrapped by Fisher, Neumann, their children and volunteers. Neumann’s son, Wesley, who was 6 at Christmas, even offered to donate one of his own gifts, a LEGO set. “He immediately picked it up and said, ‘Mommy, I have this LEGO. This one will be for Present Now,’” says Neumann.
Present Now accepts monetary donations year-round via its website, www.presentnow.org.