You may remember back several months ago, I was frustrated with my daughters lack of appreciation for the massive amount of toys that they had in their basement playroom and decided to do something radical about it. The basement has remained the same since that evening, and nothing has been added back. I spent a long weekend while the girls were at their dads, sorting through the containers to see exactly what was there and what they had outgrown. A large number of items were still unopened – mostly games and craft projects that we always meant to get to and never found the time and there was just too much. Seeing all of the things packed away that had never been played with reaffirmed my commitment to do things different every day, and that included the holidays. Gone would be the days of excessive spending on my part (my credit cards would be thanking me in January) and I was determined to find a different way for my family to give back.
Hesed House is a local community service center, resident facility and emergency shelter site that services my hometown. They are a Comprehensive Homeless Resource Center – a campus of centralized highly skilled professionals collaborating to provide the tools necessary to help individuals and families break free of the shackles binding them to homelessness. They do amazing work, and most people don’t think of them as a place that would need toys for their residents for the holidays. The joy heard in the voice of the woman who I talked to on the phone when she confirmed that yes, they could absolutely use new toys for the children that live there still makes my eyes well with tears. I wish I could make my kids understand that everyone isn’t as blessed as they are. The things that they take for granted are luxuries beyond imagination for so many families. That the latest doll and electronic toy is so far from what they care about and need; food and shelter are their priorities. I was on a mission this year to teach them that because they have received so many blessings, it needed to be about giving back to those that have real needs. It was my job as a mother to teach them that their hearts will find joy in giving to others and that is the best gift they will ever receive.
The process began by sorting through toys. Anything that was unopened and brand new was being donated. I also went through several boxes and bags of toys that I had received from social media and blogging events throughout the year as well as the remainder of the toys packs I had been sent to give out as Halloween treats (the weather prevented us from handing them all out, but I decided they would make great stocking stuffers!) Next, I called on the fabulous ladies of the Naperville Moms Network and asked them to please bring a new, unwrapped toy to our monthly Bunco get together for my donation pile. After that evening, there were quite a few boxes filled!!
I then decided that something good needed to come from a local area grocery chain closing its doors at the end of the year. During the 50% off sale, I went with the shelter’s “Needs List” open on my phone and walked the aisles, filling my cart with as much as it could hold. It wasn’t an extravagant list – peanut butter and jelly, bread, and canned vegetables. Just the basics. This would be the thing that I spent the majority of my holiday budget on this year.
The final piece of this project was getting the kids involved. After explaining what we were doing for about a week to get them used to the idea and answer any questions they had, it was time for all of us to go shopping. Each girl had taken a portion of their savings out of their piggy banks and would be purchasing items to donate. I wanted to get them involved in the selection process AND then taking it to the facility. Off to our local big box store we went. I promised to match what they were donating, and suggested they pick out as much as they could for the money that they had to spend. They had a great time thinking about what different kids at different ages would want for Christmas and selecting things in their price range. I made each child pay for their item individually and carry all of their gifts out to the car. We went from the big-box store directly to Hesed House to drop everything off.
It took the five of us three trips to get it all in to the lobby. The receptionist / coordinator spent a few minutes talking to us about the different types of facilities they had, and assured us that anything they weren’t able to use would certainly be passed on to those that could use it. We only stayed a few minutes, but I feel like the kids got the idea. I promised to find them a place that we all could volunteer at, and we talked about how people need help year round – not just at the holidays.
As we pulled out of the parking lot, Princess M said to me, “Mommy, my heart does feel warm and fuzzy from giving to others!”, as a smile lit up her face.
That’s the best present I could ever ask for!
What do you and your family do to give back during the holidays? Do you continue to do it throughout the year?
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