Dr. Piper Center celebrates 99 years spreading Christmas joy

Author: Andrew Scheinthal

FORT MYERS, Fla.-  A special Christmas party for Southwest Florida’s kids. The Dr. Piper Center opens its doors every Christmas morning and welcomes kids who may find nothing under the tree. This year, 99 years after the first celebration, the tradition continues.

Running down the stairs Christmas morning, ripping open perfectly wrapped presents, enjoying time spent with family. It’s what most people picture during the holiday season, but for many, that’s not what Christmas looks likes.

“The need in the community is great. There’s a lot of families here that need help,” said Steve Nemazie.

For 99 years the center has been giving children a Christmas experience unlike any other.

“Our community pulls together around Christmas by providing Christmas presents, bicycles,” said Nemazie.

Generous donors have dropped off hundreds of gifts, helping put a smile on the faces of the many children and families.

“Some of them would be disappointed to get nothing on Christmas. So their grandma and I try to make sure we get down to get something, and by the grace of God, I hope that happens this morning,” said one resident.

“The looks on their faces, the oohs and the aahs, and the amazement of them,” said volunteer Bettye Middlebrooks.

“You see everybody smiling on Christmas, when they get a present, and they all happy,” said a young gift recipient.

It’s those smiles that keep dozens of volunteers coming back year after year. The center is already looking forward to next year when they will celebrate the 100th Christmas party.

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