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‘Christmas Jars’: How one WNY woman has carried on a special tradition to help others

Diane Nastasi of Niagara Falls has been quietly helping others for the past 10 years, but today she let us bring her beautiful story to light. It all started with a “Christmas Jar” and it’s made a difference for WNY families in need during the holiday season.

So here’s the backstory. We recently posted an article about Jaziah, a 4-year-old boy from Niagara Falls who is battling leukemia. We wanted to help he and his mom have a brighter holiday season, so we started a GoFundMe and shared his story. Jaziah was in the hospital since February and during his time battling leukemia, he has had two bone marrow transplants, heart failure and open window heart surgery. He also had to spend Halloween and his fourth birthday in the hospital, but he keeps a big smile on his face despite what he’s going through.

Well, the other day we received a message from Diane that said she gives a Christmas Jar to a family in need each year and she wanted to give it to Jaziah. I had no idea what a Christmas Jar was but I welcomed her kindness. Today she stopped over to my house to bring the jar and presents for Jaziah and his mom. You see, Diane knows all too well what a family goes through when someone they love is battling cancer. Her grandson had to fight for his life due to severe medical issues when he was a boy and her husband is battling cancer as we speak. She now gives back by volunteering as a wish granter at Make-A-Wish WNY and helps in other ways when she can, just like the Christmas Jar, which is a jar filled with money that is saved throughout the year. The money that goes in the jar comes from change from she and her husband’s pockets daily or money from returning bottles to the store. When Christmas comes near, Diane then finds a family in need to gift the Christmas Jar to with a book to tell the recipient more about it. Most of the time she just knocks on their door and leaves it on the porch anonymously, other times she has someone donate it on her behalf at Roswell or days like today, to me. Instead, we both decided we would go together to give the Christmas Jar to Jaziah and his mom. It was a heartwarming experience to say the least.

“I received our first Christmas Jar in December 2009 and we have been giving our jars out yearly. A coworker teacher of my husband, Tony, came to our house with the jar for us and a book called “Penny’s Christmas Jar.” She knew we liked to help others and thought we would like to do the Christmas Jar. The Penney’s Christmas Jar book is very expensive to buy now, so I purchase gently used books on Amazon for approximately $8 each to go with the jar and pick up the coin holders at Walmart or the Dollar Store. Some people are really interested in starting a jar, so I pick up a flower jar, put a ribbon around it and give them a book to start.”

And that’s exactly what she did for me today. Tonight she secretly came back to my house and left a jar with a gold ribbon wrapped around it and the “Christmas Jar” book on my front porch. It came with a quarter inside. She said I can keep it or start my own tradition. I think I’ll start my own tradition. Thank you, Diane.

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