Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Wrapping up every toy in Boston

Today was the day our family volunteers for Christmas in the City, a city-wide event that celebrates Christmas with a huge party and a lot of presents for the poorest children in the city. Most of the kids come from either shelters or social service agencies. Their families may not have any other holiday celebration, so this party is just a huge celebration with rides, bounce houses, entertainment, a hot meal and plenty of candy, and last of all, presents. This year they had the coolest bounce slide, the Titanic. From the side it looked just like half a ship sinking. I thought it was funny, but in rather poor taste.

Church groups volunteer to create large paintings that are hung all over the Bay Side Expo Center. It takes hours and hours to paint so many different pictures, and the whole hallway smells like poster paint!

In order to get every child a present, donations are made by families from all over the greater Boston area. Each child makes a wish list with 3 wishes, and families try hard to purchase their first wish. But not every child is matched with a gift, which makes for some very funny shopping experiences for the volunteers.

Besides a gift tailor made from each guest's wish list, every child gets a shopping bag filled with extras: t-shirts, hats, scarves and gloves, a Red Sox hoodie, a stuffed animal, and some school supplies. The bags are filled by an assembly line of hundreds of high school kids and then left on the floor sorted by age and gender.

Once we arrive and find the agency we represent, we look through all the gifts in the big orange crates. We pick out all the packages that need to be rewrapped, sort out all the gift cards, put a grid on the floor corresponding to gender and age, and then start sorting the gifts accordingly. We also rewrap all the gifts that are torn up during the transportation.

Once the gifts are all wrapped and sorted onto the grid, we go through checklists to make sure that each kid is represented. Mostly, they are not, especially the older kids who get gift cards.

Now we prepare a 'shopping list' and 'go shopping' in the vast stores of toys for gifts for each child not represented on the list. Once this huge amount of toys is depleted, the shoppers make a run to a toy store and buy more. They spend $20K at a pop. It's astounding how many toys there are out there.

Those presents all need to be wrapped, and gift tags printed up with the child's name, age, gender, and what the present is. Then they're placed in the grid in the correct spot and crossed off the master list.

Emily, our volunteer captain, had her parents come from New Jersey to volunteer.

The Girl brought her friend Syd.

The Boy and I had a good time going through the gifts. Some of the people are so generous. One kid got a Playmobile castle and two smaller Playmobile sets. The Boy was SOOOO jealous.

I spent a lot of time wrapping. This year the wrapping paper was all foil and so hard to wrap with. The tape didn't stick, the paper was really thick (and so pretty) and every present took extra special effort. I love to wrap presents. To me, it's a really soothing activity, one that gives you almost instant gratification.

Towards the end of the day, the Boston Globe photographer came and took a lot of pictures of our piles of presents. It was pretty darn impressive!

The kids all fell asleep in the back seat of the car on the way home. Man, we're all so tired. But this is such a fun volunteer activity, and we really enjoy doing it. We'll be back next year, too!

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Blogger Daisy said...

This sounds wonderful. My school building just had its wrapping extravaganze for our adopt-a-family program, and it was similar, but on a much smaller scale. We, too, found it was harder to find gifts for the teens and tweens. Next year, I know which age I'll target with my (small but worthwhile) donations.

15/12/07 4:38 PM  
Blogger daysgoby said...

It's things like this that keep me from hating the Christmas season altogether. Thanks, M.

15/12/07 5:06 PM  
Blogger Seraphim said...

That sounds like a great day, good on you. More people like you and the rest of those volunteers are needed in this world.

15/12/07 6:34 PM  
Blogger Jendeis said...

I'm so proud of your family! You all rock! Plus, Syd was wearing a Brandeis sweatshirt! Go 'DEIS!

16/12/07 10:14 AM  
Blogger David Saywell said...

What a fantastic idea. It's great to get the comunity involved like that. Keep up the good work.

Send a Christmas Message to Children Living with Cancer

18/12/07 12:58 AM  

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