In the new winter issue of his and wife Joanna’s magazine, The Magnolia Journal, the HGTV host revealed a half-baked, albeit well-intentioned, plan that he hatched around the holidays one year.
“I started to think about how we could impact our kids’ lives in a real big-picture sort of way,” he writes in his Chip’s Corner column. “They were still young, but we’d been through enough Christmases as a family of six to know how quickly presents can get out of hand.”
Feeling like a huge pile of gifts “wouldn’t be healthy” for now 12-year-old Drake, Ella, 11, Duke, 9, and Emmie Kay, 7, Chip and his brother-in-law formulated a strategy to get both families in the spirit of giving.
“But of course, it ended up kicking me in the butt just as much, if not more,” he writes.
After taking some money they had set aside for themselves, the two dads had their children pick out presents for other kids their age, then piled in the car in search of homes that looked like they needed some extra cheer.
“Then we hit a snag,” he recalls. “Every house we passed looked empty. No one was on the streets. It felt like the entire town had shut down.”
Worried they weren’t going to make it back for the feast Joanna was preparing, Chip pulled over next to the spot that would one day become their Magnolia Market complex. “All of a sudden one of the kids yells from the back, ‘What about that house?’ and points to a few blocks ahead to this itty-bitty house up on a hill.”
They knocked on the door and were greeted by three single moms living with three or four kids each under the same roof and “the richest smell of tamales.”
“They had scraped up everything they could to buy Christmas presents for their kids, but it hadn’t been enough for anything more than maybe a few pencils and coloring books,” he writes.
Although it was Chip who spurred the idea, it was his children’s excitement to hand out their presents and bond with their less fortunate peers that made it meaningful.
“My kids never cease to amaze me,” he said. “But when I think back to that night I marvel at their kindness, their generosity, and their ability to love those kids as if they were family.”
And while his wife “looked pretty upset” when they returned home very late that evening, all was forgiven once Joanna saw they were all “smiling from ear to ear.”
“These ideas come at less than ideal moments for Jo and our family,” Chip admits. “But, as they say, you can’t keep a good man down!”
For the full tale, pick up the winter issue of The Magnolia Journal.