Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Best Part of Christmas

For the last 8 years I've been involved in wonderful local Christmas charity, Woonsocket Adopt-a-Family (AAF). AAF's mission is to provide a full Christmas for needy children in Woonsocket, RI. My step mom Sandy from It's a Jungle Out There has been involved for 25 years and is currently the Program Coordinator for AAF. (And from what I heard while volunteering this year, she's really the heart of the program. But, I already knew that!)

My involvement began in 2001, when we moved back to RI. I started out as a volunteer during Distribution Week - the whirlwind week when all the donors deliver the gifts they've so generously bought and also when the recipients come to pick up their gifts. Like all first time volunteers, I was awed by the sheer number of bags of gifts that are donated.

Not to mention all the bikes!

Oh, I can't forget Santa's Workshop. The AAF board members also shop the after Christmas sales and stock up on toys and clothes just in case they don't have enough donors and need to complete what they refer to as "in house adoptions". This year, not surprisingly, there were fewer donors and more recipients. So, the AAF elves were hard at work putting together donations for over 300 children (Sandy, please correct me if I've got the numbers wrong). It's a wonder to behold.

This year gifts were donated for 2,310 children in 1,118 families!!! That's about 100 classrooms full of children! But beyond that, the Type A part of my personality was impressed with the simple, yet effective procedure that makes the whole process run smoothly. AAF is a well oiled machine!

I still volunteer every year during Distribution Week, but since 2002 I've also "adopted" a child. And you know what? Shopping for that child is a complete joy. AAF provides donors with a wish list complete with the child's clothing sizes and needs and a few toys they would like to have. I love to imagine the face of "my child" on Christmas morning. I wish I could be a fly on the wall.

But beyond the joy of giving, I love working with the AAF board members during Distribution Week every year. And every year, I get tears in my eyes when I see that room fill up with bags and bags of gifts. And it doesn't stop for an entire week. As soon as some gifts are picked up by the recipients, more are dropped off. The generosity of the donors is astounding. It renews my belief in the goodness of people. For me, it's the Best Part of Christmas and one small way that I honor the 11th Commandment - Thou Shalt Not Stand Idly By.


Diane said...

This is so wonderful -- the sheer volume and the generosity for those less fortunate. Good for you for helping out. Happy Holidays Pam

Karen said...

What a wonderful program, and it's so great that you can get involved in something so meaningful.

Every year, I say I'm going to do something like this. And every year, I let life catch up to me and I overextend myself with too many commitments.

I know there is still time to help out this year. I'm looking for something locally that I can do on Christmas morning.

Gail Foelsch said...

It sounds like fun! We've donated for years through a program out here called The Family Giving Tree. They put "giving trees" in all the schools with wish tags on them. Last year we also got the opportunity to go to the warehouse and do the gift matching -- my kids LOVED it (Eric actually apologized in the middle of our shift for being an obnoxious grump before we started and said it was a lot of fun and he wanted to do it again) and we're volunteering again tomorrow. (They also do a backpack program in the summer for back to school supplies which we've donated to but haven't gone to help yet.)

Anonymous said...

Bless you for the work that you are doing for those that need a little help! It is so amazing to see all of those bikes and toys!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sandy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sandy said...

You got it right...we took care of nearly 300 children out of Santa's Workshop as we call it.

I have always said that providing for one of these children is a very personal experience. By the time you are done shopping for and wrapping the gifts, you have a little face in your mind of what your 'child' looks like. It is a far more gratifying experience than writing a check, and I think that's one of the reasons we have been so successful.

But we could never do it without the donors and volunteers and I am so happy that it becomes a family project for so many including us

Bethany said...

Wow, what a great Christmas tradition to get involved in! I don't think I've ever seen so many toys and bikes in one location- awesome!!!!


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