The seeds of Elves & More were planted in 2000. That year, our founder, David Moore, was recovering from a personal loss and through this experience was determined to make Christmas something special. His solution was to give Christmas gifts to those less fortunate; but none of his experience prepared him for the poverty he saw in Houston, Texas. To be poor amidst plenty seemed an incredible travesty. How could this happen, here in the land of opportunity? The need was greater than he ever imagined.
In 2001, he adopted 23 families, including 110 kids. During the giveaway, he again realized how great the need truly was and how many other children need help. At day's end, after the adopted families had been visited, he went back to this same area and this time gave out two or three gifts to the other children he had seen (300 in all). David had never witnessed such joy in one place.
After reflecting on this experience, he began to think about the differences between the adopt-a-family approach and this new blanketed "neighborhood approach." The former was custom tailored, time intensive, and expensive. He knew that approach inherently limited the number of children a given amount of money and volunteers could reach. On the other hand, the Neighborhood Approach involved generic, but very good gifts, could be done quickly with fewer volunteers, and could be scaled up to reach far more children.
Given the benefits, we decided to apply the Neighborhood Approach exclusively in the future and to increase the quality and value of the gifts in order to approach the benefits of adopt-a-family giving, yet en masse.
In 2002, David had much more feedback from the neighborhoods. He found other unexpected -- and good -- things happening which we hadn't considered before. The abundance of gifts meant no child felt shame for receiving, no neighborhood child felt neglected for being left out, and no child needed to express hurt or anger by defacing or stealing gifts from any other. Everyone got nice gifts, everyone got to keep their gifts and everyone got to enjoy them.
In addition to the expected benefits to individual kids, he found that the attitude of the entire neighborhood shifted, too. From the dead gray of gloom before, the neighborhood lightened amidst the bright smiles of happy children at play. This, plus some even more profound effects, has come to form what we now call the "neighborhood lift."
In 2002, the Neighborhood Approach was implemented with more neighborhoods and better gifts and, before even starting, very bold intentions were established. We intended to reach every single child in the poorest communities at least once during their childhood. Based on statistics, that represented 263,000 (now over 330,000) underprivileged children in the Greater Houston Area alone.
During the course of the 2001 giveaway, David made one more important discovery. The children really wanted bicycles, much more than any other gift. He found that impoverished children were really hungry for bikes, not only because they are wonderful toys, but because they are transportation too, something valued dearly by those who lack it. Elves & More had found its true Mission and how to achieve it!
In 2003, we reached 10,000 children, but boosted bicycles to 80% of all gifts; giving bikes to every child aged 4-14. We learned something very valuable that year, too. Volunteers are enriched to an extraordinary degree by their experience, too. Not only are they filled with joy from making children happy, they are filled with greater knowledge of what poverty is really like. With that knowledge in hand, many are determined to start changing things, not only with Elves & More, but through other means. For most, it has been a life-changing experience like no other. The spirit of Christmas and community is alive in them.
Then in 2004, five years from the beginning, Elves & More was officially formed as a 501 (c) 3 charitable organization, and began fulfilling our vision of gifting 25,000 underprivileged children in the neighborhoods of Greater Houston each year.
Today our program is exclusively a bike giveaway to children in poverty. The bike is basic transportation that enables children to participate in positive life experiences with caring mentors such as after-school programs, Boys and Girls Clubs, sports, scouting, and many more. For two magical weeks each year, and through the generosity of our thousands of volunteers, we build each and every bike at Reliant Center. So, bring your checkbook or bring your tools, or bring both. Come and be a part of the most amazing set of Programs you'll ever see!
David L. Moore