She was one of dozens of volunteers who woke up very early last weekend to prepare for a day of giving called the Holiday Miracles event hosted by Colonies Partners at the Colonies Crossroads in Upland.
"I've known about the program for several years because of my daughter, Jill, but didn't get involved until last year when she asked me to help. There is no better feeling in the world than taking a child shopping and seeing the complete joy on their face. Believe me, for all the joy this brings to the children and their families, I feel like the one blessed. I can't wait until next year," said Southard with a chuckle.
The event celebrated its fifth year where families in need are invited to the north Upland center to enjoy a day of fun. This year 189 families participated.
Families were selected based on need. They were referred by National Community Renaissance properties and several local nonprofits including Upland United School District's Healthy Start Program, Children's Fund, Pacific Lifeline, House of Ruth, Foothill Family Shelter, OPARC, Children's Hope and the Upland Housing Authority.
Children received $200 to spend at the stores of Colonies Crossroads. Last year, Southard helped a young boy shop and the only thing he really wanted was a bike.
"He bought it and rode it around the center. He couldn't stop smiling. I got paired with another young boy again this year and he wanted a bike, too, but bikes and everything you need to go with it are expensive. Instead, he bought clothes and a blue sled so he could go sledding with his cousin.
"These are good kids and good parents. They are so appreciative of this event. And even though both boys were excited about buying things for themselves it wasn't only about themselves, both wanted to buy something for their mothers. It was just a great Saturday for everyone involved," she said.
Southard got recruited to volunteer by her daughter and this year she mentioned it to a friend of hers.
"She's not a morning person and we have to get there really early, but I told her I'd pick her up. She loved it, too. You can't help but want to do this again after experiencing the complete joy of the day," Southard said.
In addition to the shopping sprees, each family received a turkey dinner and heartfelt messages from sports legends James Worthy, Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk as well as from Rep. Gary Miller, R-Brea.
The shopping sprees were donated by the Colonies Partners and the Newport Beach-based Pacific Development Group (Colonies Pacific). Kohl's Department Store and Dick's Sporting Goods, Colonies Crossroads tenants and major sponsors, also offered deep discounts that helped make each $200 spree last a lot longer.
Colonies partner Jeff Burum said the Holiday Miracles program is "an opportunity for business leaders to come together to bring the community together. This is not just about shopping and giving gifts. It's the community service aspect of giving back," he said in a prepared release.
Worthy, the NBA Hall-of-Famer with the Los Angeles Lakers, said the event offers lessons to last a lifetime.
"Whatever your success is, your No. 1 responsibility is to give back. Holiday is every day. Doing something kind is every day. Helping your neighbor is every day," said Worthy in the same release.
In addition to volunteers, Upland police officers and firefighters helped chaperone the children. Police Chief Jeff Mendenhall said the pairing of these children and law enforcement officers also is an invaluable lesson leaving each child with the knowledge that the community cares about him.