Helping to ensure a Bright and Shining Christmas for everyone

In the frenetic pace leading up to the holidays the true reason for the season, whatever the faith, is sometimes forgotten.  But fortunately there are also some who quietly go about making the world a better place, one child at a time.  Last year, Brian Gilbert of Pearl Restaurant chose five charities that he thought could use a little help; Habitat for Humanity, Hibiscus Children’s Center, Homeless Family Center, Gifford Youth Activity Center and Youth Guidance.  He liked what the charities were doing, and realized that they were hurting.

“I’ve got four kids, two that I adopted at six and seven, who are all grown now and I wanted to give something back to the community,” said Gilbert.  “I’ve been able to provide for my kids all their lives, but there are many who can’t.”  Gilbert’s 35 year-old son is currently serving in the National Guard in Iraq.

Pearl’s Bright and Shining Christmas was fashioned last season with some help from friends, volunteers at the charities and members of the Elks Lodge.  Ultimately, more than 450 dinners were served to families affiliated with the charities and each and every child was presented, by Santa himself, with a gift and a photo taken with Santa.

“It was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Gilbert.  His voice choking with emotion, Gilbert related the story of one little boy who received one of the more expensive bikes (won in a drawing).  “He wheeled it back and said, “I already have a bike.”  He walked over to the table and picked up one of the less expensive gifts.  He got what we were doing; he realized that the whole idea was the act of giving.”

Santa, aka Tom Danaher of Statewide Insurance, donates his time as does photographer Jay Andrews and a host of volunteers from the Elks Lodge and the charities, who give up their Christmas Day to help set-up and serve all the meals.  Homeless Family Center families are feted at the shelter, and all the other charities celebrate the festivities at the Elks Lodge, which donates the space.

To prepare meals for that many people, Gilbert and his chefs begin cooking the huge spread – prime rib, turkey, ham and all the yummy side dishes, including some kid-friendly mac & cheese, on December 23.  Mind you, they’re doing this all while still keeping the restaurant open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and whatever the restaurant makes on Christmas Day is donated back to the charities.

They’re currently collecting gifts and donations at Pearl and anticipate feeding approximately 600 people this year.  Napa Auto Parts of Vero Beach and Jarvis Construction and Emergency Services have made generous donations of bikes and toys, and others have contributed, but more are needed to make this a truly memorable holiday for everyone.  You can stop by Pearl Restaurant at Portales de Vero at any time to drop off a gift card, unwrapped gift for boys and girls of all ages, or make a donation.  All donations are given immediately to the charities so that they can purchase age-appropriate gifts for the children.

You can also enter into a raffle for magnums of wine, a play station, an electric keyboard and other high end items, for a donation of $5 per ticket, which also goes to the charities.  The drawing takes place on Christmas Eve.  And, on Sunday, December 20th from 2 to 5 p.m. bring in an unwrapped gift or donation and enjoy complimentary hors d’oeuvres and a photo with Santa.

As Gilbert reminds us, “This is all about making someone else’s life better on Christmas Day.”

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