The Christmas shopping I need to do for family and friends is nearly complete, just a couple days before Christmas. I have full faith that I'll get it done, not only because I know what I still need to buy and have time to do it but more importantly because I am financially secure enough to do so. More and more of the families near where I live don't have that same security, and many have no funds in their budget for basics such as coats and mittens, let alone fun toys.
There is an awesome charity organization near me that does something about all this, and has been since the 1930s. Barrington Giving Day is an organization dedicated to making the holiday season doable for many families who otherwise have not nearly enough. On one Saturday, months and months of work by an entire community from schoolchildren to businesses to families and individuals culminates in a morning of giving. All the coats and hats and mittens and books and blankets and toys and diapers and formula have been placed into the middle school gym by volunteers, including lots and lots of students. Every family in the district who is on free or reduced lunch is invited, as are many seniors in the community who are struggling.
Although the organization collects enough to promise each family that comes items, the line starts early the night before in the hopes that they can get the "best" of the items and ensure they get what they need. In fact, as I dropped off items myself at 3pm on Friday, there were already women waiting - as they would wait all night outside in the Chicago cold to get essentials and what they need.
Why was I there dropping off items on Friday? Donations had already closed - and yes, I provided my share. I was lucky enough to have been chosen by Cepia to be a part of their Random Acts of Zhu again this year. I was thrilled to be chosen again, especially as I had gotten an email from the director of the program in August asking if it was possible I might have a similar donation again this year. The ZhuZhu Pets I had been able to provide last year were the hit of the day and one of the first toys gone. Fortunately, Cepia sent me twenty-six boxes of ZhuZhu Pets and accessories, something that shocked my FedEx guy!
I was beyond excited when I received my packages, as were the wee ones. Little Miss had helped me with my delivery last year, and Mister Man was anxious to be able to step in and make a difference this year. I love that not only can the wee ones be involved in this, but they really get and appreciate the giving behind it. In fact, both the wee ones have already asked to donate one of the toys (each) they received from my husband's family at our early Christmas. That is the kind of attitude I love and truly hope to foster in them.
As we arrived at the middle school and began unloading my very full car, I was amazed by the sheer amount of everything headed into the gym. I had seen it last year, of course, but just how much is needed to fulfill the needs of all the families invited surprised me again. There were 330 families who came from the invited list, along with another 63 walk-in families. Every one of them was able to receive coats, hats and gloves for every member of the family (including adults), as well as a book and a toy for each child. There were another 414 families who couldn't attend and 148 senior families, all of whom will receive a $50 grocery store card to purchase food for the holidays. As much as this warms my heart, I also breaks my heart just a little bit.
For the moment, I will bask in the joy, knowing that so many children are able to have a Christmas - and simply stay warm - because of the generosity of so many within our community. I was beyond thrilled to be a part of it through Cepia and the Random Acts of Zhu for 2011. The idea behind donating via bloggers to capture local needs says so much about the philosophy of the company. I know it isn't just me thanking them, and they deserve every ounce of thanks they can get.
I know Barrington Giving Day isn't the only charity out there making this holiday season less bleak for someone. And with the economy stuck in a rut, there are more and more people needing help. Is there something near you that could use just a little bit of help from you?