December 16, 2010 Visions of Joy on Christmas article in The Express-Times

Charity Distributes Gifts to Needy Children in Nazareth Area

by Tony Nauroth

The borough-based nonprofit group Visions of Eagles delivered 183 presents Wednesday to needy families living within the Nazareth Area School District boundaries.

Each child on Christmas will get three packages.  Two hold clothing, Visions Chairman Bud Donnelly said.  The third will be a toy, music CD and sports equipment for older boys or jewelry for older girls.  Donnelly said he got the idea for that third “fun” gift from an old Reader’s Digest story about a boy on Christmas who opened box after box of clothing.  He finally got down to the last box and held his breath, hoping for a toy.  It was a pair of socks.  As the boy trudged to his bedroom, his mother asked him where he was going.  “Up to my room to play with my socks,” he said.

The Visions of Eagles staff should deliver the last of the items by Friday morning, Donnelly said.  The program, in its third year, is called Visions of Joy.  Here’s how it works:  volunteers identify families that can’t afford Christmas presents for the children.  This is done through Visions’ database of needy families already being helped by the group with their everyday living needs, Donnelly said.  The volunteers spent about $2,000 this year for all the gifts using money donated by community members and donors far from the school district boundaries.  “We had one person from Florida who gave $500,” Donnelly said.

According to the Visions of Eagles mission statement, the public charity identifies needs in the Nazareth area.  “Our membership feels that those who have been blessed should be sharing their blessings with those in need,” the statement reads.  The Visions of Joy program is a growth industry for the volunteers.  The first year it provided gifts to eight children.  Last year it was 54, according to the group’s website.

Visions of Eagles is a state-recognized charity created by successful computer entrepreneur Thomas Fehnel, of Florida, who wanted to give some of his success back to his native Nazareth.  In a previous interview, Fehnel said that the idea for the name came from a vision he imagined of “an eagle hovering over Nazareth seeking out needs.”

Asked why he volunteers and donates, Donnelly said, “The people we help often tell us, ‘Thank you very much.  I don’t know what we would have done for Christmas without you.’  “That’s why we do it,” Donnelly said.