Bay Area Proud

Bay Area Proud

Inspiring stories of people making a difference

Classic Thunderbird Lovers Save Holiday Giving Tradition

Jill Schwab's tradition of giving holiday gift bags to people in need was getting too big for her to handle so she called in the cavalry: each member riding two hundred horses.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Jill Schwab's tradition of giving holiday gift bags to people in need was getting too big for her to handle so she called in the cavalry: each member riding two hundred horses.

    As ethical challenges go, it is a rather small one.

    Still, it is question almost all of us have faced: if you don't use the complimentary soaps and shampoos in your hotel bathroom, is it OK to take them?

    Some people might feel a twinge of guilt stuffing miniature shampoos and conditioners into their suitcase on the way to check out.

    Not Jill Schwab.

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    Jill doesn't have a problem with it, because the ones she takes aren't meant for her. They end up in gift baskets and bags for people spending Christmas away from their families in places like hospitals or hospices or on the streets.

    "It just makes my heart hurt thinking of those people," Jill says.

    Jill began collecting the toiletries and putting together the gift bags roughly 10 years ago.

    The first year she put together just 30. The following year she did a few more, and the year after that a few more. Soon the number had reached 100 and Jill had reached her limit.

    "I just couldn't keep up with demand," she says.

    So Jill turned to fellow members in the Santa Clara Valley Thunderbirds, the club made up of owners and admirers of 1955-1957 Ford Thunderbirds. Jill, husband Jerry, and his classic T-Bird have been members for the past 15 years.

    "They really adopted me, and adopted this program," Jill says.

    Right away, nearly all 100 members of the club were cleaning out hotel bathrooms during their many trips around the state to car shows, rallies and casinos.

    It got to the point that Jill figured a warning was in order. "I'd let the hotels know right away that we were going to wipe them out."

    Club members then deliver their booty to Jill throughout the year.

    "I just find random bags left on my front steps," Jill says. She holds all of it until the first week in December when club members get together at her home to put the bags together.

    This year, they are stuffing more than 1,200 bags. "It makes me feel good that we helped somebody," Jill says, "made their life just a little bit easier."

    Once ready, they head out to vehicles prepared to deliver them to veterans hospitals, nursing homes, and other places where people might need a holiday pick-me-up.