2022 Top 20 Impact Makers Honorees
2022 Top 20 Inspiring Woman Impact Maker Award
Saturday, May 28, 2022
The St. Regis Houston
Gayla Gardner has a passion for service. The question she has sought to answer while immersing herself in the Houston community is, “How do I make a difference?”
Gayla began her quest in 1999 when she and her daughter founded Twelve Days of Christmas, Inc., and what a difference the nonprofit has made. It began with friends joining them to provide Christmas for less fortunate families and developed into “Parties with a Purpose” with guests bringing donations that were sorted and delivered to those in need.
Today, Twelve Days of Christmas, Inc. has expanded beyond Houston with chapters in Oakland; Washington, D.C.; New York; Atlanta; Detroit; Philadelphia; Chicago; and Loudoun County, Virginia. Now, too, the organization includes year-round services for thousands of children, including holiday giving, providing back-to-school needs, mentoring, tutoring, providing monetary sponsorship for school supplies and field trips, and providing disaster relief and senior care. Gayla is most proud of the organization’s hundreds of volunteers who are committed to serving others.
Gayla also spear-headed Chic Children for a Cause, a fashion show that highlights children’s accomplishments, encourages achievement, builds confidence, and showcases talent. The event honors a model who struggles with special circumstances to cultivate awareness, compassion, and generosity. It also honors an adult community leader dedicated to making a difference in the lives of children. The proceeds benefit the programs of Twelve Days of Christmas, Inc.
In 2018, to celebrate the twentieth year of service of Twelve Days of Christmas, Inc., Gayla founded the READ Program (Read to Empower Achieve and Discover). READ’s mission is to provide books to, and encourage reading among, at-risk youth. There are now eight active chapters.
During the pandemic, Twelve Days of Christmas, Inc. held a virtual fundraiser that was its most successful to date. The remarkable effort made it possible for the organization to provide families with emergency assistance, food, housing, rent, utilities, books, senior care, and computers for virtual school.
Gayla has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. She also has a certificate in design from Florence University of the Arts. Her passions include designing, drawing, reading, and traveling extensively with family and friends.
In other capacities, Gayla is a charter member of the Missouri City Chapter of The Links, Inc. and Our Choice Foundation. She serves on the Board of The Imani School for Young Children, the Winter Ball advisory committee, and is cochair and chair of the University of St. Thomas Performing and Fine Arts Society Membership Tea. Her past achievements include chairing the 2018 Pumps and Pearls Luncheon, chairing the 2018 Literacy Tea, and cochairing the 2019 Audrey H. Lawson Impact Awards Luncheon & Fashion Show.
A small sample of the many worthy organizations Gayla supports includes Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church Women’s Guild; Jack and Jill of America, Inc.; Girl Friends, Inc.; United Negro College Fund; Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation; The Women’s Home; and the National Kidney Foundation.
In appreciation of her untiring work benefiting so many, Gayla has received numerous honors. Some of the most recent of these include being named an ABC13 Woman of Distinction in 2015, receiving the Audrey H. Lawson Impact Award in 2015, being named a Houston Chronicle Best Dressed honoree in 2016, being named The Women’s Home reNew and reDo Fashion Icon in 2016, being inducted into the Greater Houston Women of Commerce Hall of Fame in 2017, being named a Houston Chronicle Best Dressed honoree in 2018, being named a Houston Treasure by The Social Book in 2018, receiving the 40 Years of Service Award from The Links Inc. in 2019, and being named an Easter Seal Hats off to Mothers Honoree in 2019.
Gayla and her husband, Don, have been married for over 52 years and have three children and three beautiful granddaughters. Together, they were honored as Texas Children’s Cancer Center Community Champions in 2019.
It is for all the reasons mentioned above, and many more, that Gayla Gardner has been named a Top 20 Inspiring Woman Impact Maker for 2022.