Times Argus: Girl gifts the homeless on her birthday

BARRE — A kindergarten student’s selfless sacrifice on her birthday is being hailed by staff at a homeless shelter in Barre.

Maggie McGibney, 6, of Montpelier, was at a loss when asked what she wanted for her birthday Oct. 4.

Maggie’s mother, Missy McGibney, said in the weeks leading up to a planned extended family birthday party Oct. 7, she and her husband, Ken, asked their daughter what she wanted to receive as gifts.

The parents suggested that if she didn’t want or need anything in particular, perhaps she should consider asking for things that she could give to others in need. According to the parents, Maggie decided she wanted to forgo birthday presents in exchange for receiving items she could give to The Good Samaritan Haven homeless shelter in Barre.

“She struggled to name anything, so we said, ‘Isn’t that an indication that you don’t need anything,’ and she was in agreement,” Missy McGibney said. “So we said that when we have opportunities like this, instead of asking someone to give things to us, we can ask them to donate to other people because we knew the family would want to bring something to the party.”

She said her daughter still wanted to have a cake, which they agreed would be all right.

“Being a six-year-old, that’s a priority,” said Missy McGibney.

The parents then asked her which organization she would like to donate items to in lieu of presents.

“I wanted to do it because I wanted to help people that don’t have homes, and I have too much stuff and they need it more than me.” - Maggie McGibney, Age 6, of Montpelier

“ Without hesitation, she said, “‘I think I want to help people who don’t have homes,’” McGibney said.

McGibney searched online and found The Good Samaritan Haven website and a list of needed items that could be donated.

Following the birthday party Oct. 7, the family gathered up the items received and visited the Barre shelter Oct. 13 to deliver them.

“When we went on Friday, for me, personally, that was the most important part of the process,” said Missy McGibney, adding that Maggie’s older sister, Molly, 8, also attended. “I wanted to make sure that both girls saw where the items were going and saw the shelter. It was very profound for them to see the size of the facility and how many people spend the night there. It really got their wheels turning.”

Maggie McGibney said was more than willing to pass up on birthday presents to help others.

“I wanted to do it because I wanted to help people that don’t have homes, and I have too much stuff and they need it more than me,” she said.

She was surprised to learn how many people lived in the shelter.

“Thirty people were living in the house and that house was smaller than our house,” she said.

Shelter manager Judi Joy said the child’s offer to help the homeless residents was a welcome and noble gesture.

“I was so thankful, I was in tears,” said Joy. “ It’s pretty darn amazing to have a little girl willing to give up the stuff she could get to give gifts to homeless people.”

Joy said the items donated included pillows, toiletries, washcloths, socks and laundry supplies, some of which would be saved to give to shelter residents moving to other housing through the shelter’s relocation program.

Joy said residents had not returned to the shelter when the family visited with the donations but were surprised to learn of the child’s generosity.

“They thought it was so great, and we had it all in the office to give to them when they came in,” Joy said.

“I had a tear in my eye when I heard about it,” said shelter resident Tom Trower, who has been homeless for 10 years. “ You don’t often hear about people doing anything like that, especially a young child.”

Trower said he was touched by the child’s generosity at a time when some people were unwilling to help others in need.

“People always want to take for themselves and not think about other people, and I just think it’s awesome that she would do something like that, and pay it forward and be generous,” Trower said. “Hopefully, someone who hears about it will be able to do the same thing and make the community and the world a better place. It only has to start with just one child. Bless her heart.”

He also credited the work of shelter executive director Brooke Jenkins and shelter manager Judi Joy for both running the shelter and helping residents trying connect with housing agencies and other services.

“It’s not just about getting people in here and giving them a meal,” he said. “They want to put an end to the problem.”

Fellow resident Heather Cheney, who has been homeless through the summer, added: “Everybody in this house is very blessed by what she did. We are more than grateful for everything she did, and I hope she had a wonderful birthday.”