By Emily J. Minor
This is the time of year so many of us dread — packing up all the Christmas gear, and stowing it away until next — but at Valerie Miller’s house in Delray Beach, they’re probably doing it with happy hearts.
Christmas, you see, came to them this year courtesy of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County, a husband-wife team with great generosity, and an amazing lady named Jeanne Bice — perhaps best-known for slapping glitter on just about everything, including a bad mood.
Hang in there, because this is a nice one.
Jeanne Bice was the Quacker Lady on QVC, the funny single mother-turned-mogul who created the line of Quacker Factory apparel and loved anything sparkly — including holidays, family and kids. When the Boca Raton entrepreneur died in June, her family wasn’t just left with a broken heart.
After all, Bice was only 71 when she died.
They were also left with all her Christmas decorations — boxes and boxes and boxes of them. Enough to fill her very large attic.
Eventually, Bice’s Christmas tidings — everything from gift bags and ribbon to delicate tree ornaments and life-sized Santas — made it to the Naoma Donnelley Haggin Boys & Girls Club in Delray Beach, where several hundred families got to shop — for free.
Bice’s daughter-in-law, Karin, and Bice’s son, Tim, gave away all of Jeanne Bice’s decorations just before Christmas so the Boys & Girls Club kids would have a family tree with decorations and lights and ornaments.
They gave it away so the kids could have Christmas.
“We haven’t had a Christmas tree in three years,” admitted Miller back in December, packing up one of Bice’s 8-foot trees along with bags of lights and baubles. “We’ve been going through some pretty hard times.”
Her daughter, Andriana, 9, was downright giddy in the parking lot.
“I can’t believe we’re going to have a tree!” she said, twirling.
The idea, say both Karin and Tim, evolved from a very simple truth: This woman who loved the holidays so much that she’d put up a tree for everything from Fourth of July to Halloween would have wanted these families to have her things.
“A lot of these families don’t have money to get the kids a little something for Christmas, let alone decorate the house,” said Tim Bice, who lost his sister, Lee, just a few weeks after his mom died.
“It’s just been unbelievably emotional to deal with all this, so it’s nice that something nice is coming out if it.”
Dolly W. Steinman, who’s chairman of the Delray board, said the idea came to them when she and her husband were out to dinner with Karin and Tim Bice. Steinman said nearly 200 families were able take home a generous sampling of Jeanne Bice’s cheer.
“She’s up there loving this,” said Steinman, who said Jeanne Bice “would walk into a room and light it up.”
Most of the kids at the December event probably didn’t know who Jeanne Bice was. They didn’t know about her personal struggles or her perseverance or her devoted family that misses her so.
But people like Tedra Hall and her four kids now know this: Someone very special put some sparkle in their Christmas this year.
“We didn’t have any decorations until we came here,” Hall said.
“I’m so excited,” said her daughter, 11-year-old daughter, Teandra — beaming from ear to ear.