NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — Giana Gagliardotto laughed while squeezing baby clothes into a bag in her parent’s converted garage.
“I’m free labor, yeah,” she said, unable to hide her growing grin.
“God spurred this vision and to be part of his is really amazing.”
When the family mission is to help so many in need, a little free labor may be warranted. Giana has been helping her mom, Desiree, for months now. Desiree started her Little Llamas Ministry non-profit with the hope that she could provide donated clothes to anyone who needed it. The first package went out in October 2018.
The Facebook messages and orders came fast and often.
“Since the very beginning, like I have said, God has placed on my heart and I want it to be whatever God wants it to be,” Desiree said. She's a mother of three herself.
“We have now reached 41 states nationwide.”
Those 41 states account for 380 families helped by Little Llamas Ministry. Desiree has been overwhelmed, in a good way, by the impact her outreach has had in a few short months.
She’s organized her garage with racks of clothes. They are separated by size and gender. She offers everything from newborn to 4T. Each package includes hand-drawn artwork by a mother-daughter team from Palm Harbor and information about Little Llama’s mission.
But, why llamas?
“I see a lot of llamas out there and they’re kind of cute,” Desiree said.
A pink and a blue llama adorn the ministry’s outreach packages. Each bag includes ‘Luke 9:48’ on the bottom. The verse from the Bible says “Then he said to them, 'Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest (NIV).'”
“Many people who have not been in church or have a relationship with Christ, that’s the first time they lay eyes on it,” Desiree said.
While Little Llamas has enjoyed national success, locally it hasn’t had the traction Desiree desired. Some influential people in the community have started to make a dent.
Mindy Jackson has a donation box set up inside Creative Kidz Center, the school she’s operated for 21 years.
“Everyone has asked about it,” Jackson said.
“I’ve had a few people drop some donations in the box and also we’ve had some people contact us through our Facebook page and say hey where can I drop off some clothes.”
Jackson and Desiree have only known each other two weeks, but Jackson has already invited her new friend to be a speaker at the Higher Purpose Seminar on February 22. It will be another chance to share her mission with the community.
“Both of us have a heart to serve the community, to see people receive the help that they need and to see them get into there on purpose,” Jackson said.
“Both of us have a heart to serve the community, to see people receive the help that they need and to see them get into their own purpose.”
In Clearwater, the kids at Guardian Angels Catholic School did a clothing drive to support Little Llamas and donated hundreds of clothing items. The students also gave $650 to help pay for shipping for those donations. That’s handy, since the Little Llamas packages cost around $10.20 per bag.
“It’s a dream that I see becoming a reality. It’s more than a reality and it’s a calling,” Desiree said from her converted garage. “For this to be, it’s more than just what I did. It’s a community that came together and God’s hand. God’s hand in motion.”
There is a corner of "Llama Land", as she calls it, that is very special to Desiree. The beautiful dresses, much fancier than the typical onesies and sleepers that get mailed out to fulfill orders, are for special occasions. The tags dangling from the hangers say Paula’s Closet. They are named after Desiree’s late sister whose heart stopped a few weeks into the Little Llamas mission. Those clothes are sent out to families whose children needs clothes for birthdays, weddings, and other special events.
“It’s been a rocky road of grief,” Desiree said.
Joy replaces grief with each filled order. So far, hundreds of families have benefited from the Little Llama Ministry.
“She told me about her business and I thought that was awesome because I have two kids of my own so I know the struggle of parents just trying to get clothes for the kids,” Brieanne Kelling said.
Kelling’s business, Bath House, began in November. She makes candles, body balms and salves, bath time teas, and even pet products. She met Desiree at a local market and decided to collaborate with her mission. Kelling created a special candle mixed with lavender and lemongrass essential oils.
“Every time someone purchases a Little Llama Love candle, that’s $9 for 12 ounces, $1 goes to [Desiree] for donation and every time a dollar is donated it buys a pack of onesies, socks, pants, T-shirts,” said Kelling.
Every donation makes a difference for Little Llamas.
“Crazily blessed. I can’t believe how God moved through these children to help all the children in Little Llamas Ministry,” Desiree said to the crowd of kids at Guardian Angels Catholic School on the day she picked up the donations.
“I mean it’s just been the biggest blessing.
“[My heart is] ready to explode. There’s no words to describe. People have often said to me, so much energy and time without a pay. There is no money that could fill me the way that this does. None. None. My life is so full. I can’t even tell you. It’s overwhelming,” Desiree said.
A big reason why her newfound community wants to see it succeed.
“I’m not surprised,” Jackson said. “I think people really do you have a good heart and I think that just like you said, if they find the avenue and they say it’s convenient for me, now that I know and I know where it’s at, I am definitely going to do my part and jump in and help.”
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