KENTVILLE, NS - Edith Riley is hoping to help make Christmas sparkle for some special women.
Riley is a volunteer with Gems for Gems, an organization founded in Calgary by a woman who grew up in Scott’s Bay. The organization takes gently-used costume jewelry donated by women and cleans it up, then presents it to women who might not get other gifts under the tree this Christmas.
“We’ve talked with Chrysalis House, and we’re partnering with them to give this jewelry to the women they help,” Riley said. “I think that sometimes moms and women forget about themselves because they can fend for themselves and focus on providing for their children. That’s all they’re worried about.”
Having a little something sparkly on Christmas morning, she said, will mean a lot to them.
“It will make them feel like they’re somebody,” she said. “We all have jewelry at home that’s got to go, and this is a great way to give it to someone who will really treasure it.”
This is the first year Gems for Gems has expanded to Kings County, Riley said, but it’s been running for a few years now in Alberta.
Jordan (Trainor) Guildford founded the non-profit organization in Calgary, where she now resides, but was inspired by her childhood in Kings County.
In a video on her website, Guildford explains that her family didn’t have a lot when she was growing up and her mother sacrificed a lot to ensure she and her siblings had everything they needed. One year, she says, she and her siblings pooled their money – about $50 – and purchased their mom a bracelet.
“When she opened it on Christmas morning, she was crying,” Guildford said. “She was reminded she was a woman and not just a life source.”
That inspired Guildford to found Gems for Gems, a jewelry drive that “reunites women with themselves.”
Expanding it to her hometown was only natural, said Riley, who was anxious to support her friend’s efforts. Riley teamed up with Guildford’s sister, Britt Mastroianni, who resides in Canning, and began a six-week campaign recently to collect jewelry to spread that Christmas magic to other women.
“It’s such a great program and the energy Jordan has for it is just amazing,” Riley said. “I love to get jewelry and I never get it – it’s a pick me up. I hope that we can give women who need it that feeling.”
Riley, who works at NSCC Kingstec, says she’s seen many other women beyond Chrysalis House that could use that magic as well. She and Mastroianni are starting small this year but hope to expand to other helping organizations next year.
“At Kingstec, I hear what some of our older students have been through – sometimes even that morning before they come to school,” she said. “We have a food bank to help, but I’d like to do something more. There’s a lot out there that’s happening that people don’t know about – either because they don’t want to know or because they just don’t know.”
For now, though, she’s hopeful the sparkly little bracelets, necklaces, earrings, watches and other costume jewelry she’s collecting will brighten the day of the women who are helped by Chrysalis House.
“We’ll clean it up, and we have cute little bags to put it in,” she said. “Whatever people want to give, we’re happy to take. We’re setting the bar low because we’re starting so late.”
The jewelry will be delivered just in time for Christmas, she said.
Drop-off locations for jewelry include The Yoga Barn in Centreville and Shoken Defence MMA and Fitness in Kentville, and the last date for pick-up is Dec. 9, she said.
“We hope it gets bigger, we want to make other partners in the community so we can offer more services to women in need,” she added. “I think it’s exciting to be involved in something like this.”
Another branch of the program is also expanding in Halifax, she said.
Anyone wishing to donate jewelry or who would like to help out can contact Riley at firstname.lastname@example.org
Go online: Learn more about the program at www.gemsforgems.ca