Most of us would agree that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. But that old adage doesn’t mean much to anyone scrambling to wrap last-minute presents during the frantic holiday season.
That’s why Bernie and Deirdre Murphy are like Christmas angels to many shoppers in Ottawa. The couple, who have been married for 54 years and whose humour and affection for each other shines through with every word they speak, volunteer for The Christmas Gift Wrapping Project each December, and they’ve done so for over a decade.
With locations at both Carlingwood Mall and St. Laurent, the project is run entirely by volunteers, and all proceeds go into a special fund set up by the Ottawa-Carleton Association for Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OCAPDD). The fund helps to purchase Christmas or birthday gifts, and pay for special activities for over 800 individuals with developmental disabilities in the National Capital Region. Over the past 20 years, the project has raised more than $300,000.
Bernie and Deirdre like to volunteer together, and they have a special fondness for the wrapping project. “This is our 13th year of wrapping, and we get so much out of seeing the faces of the clients we help,” enthuses Deirdre.
The couple also have a very clear division of labour. Bernie does the client interaction—taking in the presents, explaining prices and helping clients choose wrapping paper styles—while Deirdre does the wrapping. “I’m not good at wrapping,” says Bernie with a laugh. “He’s a typical male,” jokes his wife.
Asked why they dedicate so much of their time to this project, Bernie’s answer is simple. “Some people have a very difficult life, and we want to give back to people in need,” he says. “We have the health, energy and time to do this,” continues Deirdre. “We’re two of the most fortunate people we know and we enjoy doing this as much as the people enjoy receiving what we wrap.”
The booths, which are fully stocked with quality wrapping paper and ribbon by Carlingwood and St. Laurent, are open during regular mall hours, and there’s often a line up. “Clients are very exacting, but we give them what they want,” notes Deirdre. “It looks very professional when it’s done, and people are incredibly generous when they are paying, because they know it goes to charity.”
And, in the end, it is that spirit of generosity towards others which is the very best gift of all!