With some faith and a little love she learned while growing up, despite a difficult childhood, Roman Holly Knapp is giving back to the less fortunate in her community during the holidays.
Through the social media platform Facebook, Knapp has created a campaign called “Paying It Forword.” Those who could use a little assistance providing gifts underneath the Christmas tree for their loved ones can post a message on Knapp’s Paying It Forword page. Then community members who would like to help out can sponsor an individual or family and provide them the requests or necessities they need to fulfill the dreams of a special holiday season.
Knapp said it was lessons learned from her father as a little girl to love and respect others that has influenced her passion in adulthood to give back.
“My father taught me to love and respect everyone, and if you could help them then to try your best to be there,” Knapp said. “He said the older I got, the more I would notice that people who didn’t have much were the ones that gave the most. So whenever I had a chance to help someone I did, even though I really didn’t have it to give, I would drop everything to help someone.”
Memories of difficult times during the Christmas season have prompted Knapp to support those facing hard times as well. She recalled one year when she was due to give birth to her daughter on Christmas Day and had a 12-year-old son. Knapp said she was having difficulty getting the things she needed for her baby on the way, but still provide a memorable Christmas for her son.
“I was heartbroken because I had been through so much, and I prayed to the Lord every day to please help. Well a few weeks before Christmas, this woman that I didn’t even know heard about me and she surprised me with a few gifts for my son and even stuff for my daughter,” she remembered. “I broke into tears and I said, ‘I don’t even know how I could ever repay you,’ and all she said to me was to, ‘Pay it forward.’ I thanked the Lord that night, and I said this is why I’m here on this Earth — this is my purpose — to help others.”
Influenced by the kindness and open-heartedness of a stranger, Knapp promised she would embark on a journey to help the less fortunate in their time of need after the birth of her daughter. That is when Paying It Forword on Facebook began.
At first Knapp started by posting items she no longer needed for her daughter to give to a mother in need. Soon after, to her surprise, the mother said others began to join her Facebook page, offering to give away things for free to area families.
“Then it got close to Christmas, and I said, ‘Let’s see if I can help someone who’s in need for Christmas,’” she said. “I made a post, and so many families
commented on it. I didn’t know what to do, so I started reaching out to family and friends. Then to my surprise, Big Frog 104 (radio) called me and got my story out there.”
After a little local publicity, Knapp said several community members sponsored 46 children for Christmas, with most of them receiving about five gifts each. This year, the effort has only gotten bigger and better, she said. But because more people in need are reaching out, Knapp said she could use some volunteers to help her wrap gifts, and could use donations of gift wrap, tags, tape, bows and boxes.
“This year it has gotten a lot bigger, and I’m not going to lie, I’m scared. I want to try to get as much help as I can this year, because there are so many children in need,” she said. “I have well over 140 kids, and every day there’s more, so I pray every night that the Lord please help me. I can’t imagine a child waking up Christmas morning with nothing under the tree, that’s even if they have a tree.”
Knapp said she has also received requests from families for Christmas trees, in addition to lights and decorations.
“I know the Lord will help me through this because this is my purpose in life,” she said. “What I’m asking for today is for all of us, as a community, to come together and donate toys, clothes and whatever we need for these kids.”
Paying it Forword is accepting donations of gift cards, sporting equipment, board games, books, age-appropriate toys, make-up, toiletries, etc. And anything that is not given to a family in need during the holidays will be available for throughout the year.
“All year I take in donations of anything families can use as long as it’s not broken or stained.” Knapp said. “My site means the world to me, so thank you all and may the Lord bless each and every one of you.”
Those wishing to donate toys, goods or Christmas trees to Paying It Forword, may check out Knapp’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/269101606774860/. Once a family or individual is sponsored, Knapp will provide her address so that gifts and donations may be dropped off. Those wishing to donate their time to help wrap presents may also send her a message.
Community members my also purchase gifts at the website, www.jeffmartcny.com, and Knapp said the company will give between 20-40 percent back from the purchases for her to buy additional items for the sponsored children.