Are you decorations up? Is your shopping all done? Are your holiday goodies all baked and ready to distribute to friends and family? Is your ugly Christmas sweater all ready to go? Have you watched all your favorite holiday movies (including Die Hard for that certain population)? Do you have the best white elephant gift, ever?
I’m sorry to say I am unable to give an enthusiastic, YES, to most of these questions. However, as I look out over the blanket of white snow that covered the city and feel that certain buzz in the air, I realize the season is upon us.
The Holiday Season
I feel like the holiday season is one of the most unique. You start to think about what you want to get for your loved ones. Everyone starts to ask you what you want. The planning and budgeting starts. I love to give the perfect gifts, so I start to think about all the dreams I can make come true.
Gifts for Foster Kids through KVC
At HRS, we have a tradition of “adopting” foster kids through KVC Kansas by purchasing gifts for them. A few weeks before Thanksgiving, we decide how many kids we’re able to help. Then, we plan our big shopping trip. I mean BIG. Have you ever seen the Dugger Family… the ones with the 19+ kids… go grocery shopping at Aldi? It’s a little like that when the HRS family hits Target.
Staff, spouses, and kids of all ages come for the fun. Many of us enjoy an excuse to wear our ugly Christmas sweaters or onesies. We gather around and divvy out the kids we’re buying for. We head out in teams like we’re on the TV show Supermarket Sweep.
This is the perfect activity for me to help put things into perspective. This year, two of the kids were girls ages 12 and 14. I have a 13 year old daughter and I have a pretty good idea what kids this age like. However, it made me stop and send a message of gratitude out to the universe for all that we have.
My daughter does not have socks or gloves on her Christmas list because they’re part of everyday life for her. She also doesn’t have head wraps to cover her alopecia. What she does have is a kind soul and a love for this shopping trip, too. She knows we could possibly be shopping for one of her classmates.
I love to watch my work family shopping for these kids we will never meet as if they’re our own. The perfect gifts must be purchased. The lists must be fulfilled as well as possible. After the shopping is done, we all have dinner together. It warms my heart to see our team’s kids playing together.
Ways to Give Back
In the giving season, many of us are looking for ways to give back and help out. In the hustle and bustle of everything else we have going on, it can be difficult to figure out how to help. If you would like to join forces with KVC Kansas to bring Christmas to kids in foster care, or to participate in their other programs throughout the year, visit their website here: https://kansas.kvc.org/get-involved/holiday-giving/.
The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army has bell ringers everywhere you go. I noticed they now accept Google Pay and Apple Pay for those of us who never have cash. You can also make a donation directly through their website.
Toys for Tots
Toys for Tots accepts new, unwrapped toys which can be dropped off at any number of drop locations throughout the Metro area. Though we have probably missed the window for this year’s toy donation, you can still make monetary donations through their website.
Donate Coats and Gloves
Once the trees come down and the ugly sweaters from Aunt Bertha have been exchanged, there are still needs to be filled. Think about making a donation of warmth for those who may not have coats and winter gear.
I had another of those grateful moments last week. I dropped my daughter off for school and was heading to get myself an overpriced, hot coffee. I saw some kids walking toward the high school. One of the kids didn’t have a coat on and it was a cold morning. I’m well aware of the allergy to outerwear that afflicts children around the age of 12. So, I don’t always think much of it when I see a kid without a coat. However, this child was making due with a large, purple blanket wrapped around her shoulders for the walk to school. I don’t know her story and I never will. It did make me remember that some kids don’t wear coats because they don’t have them. The same is true with gloves, hats, scarves.
You could reach out to your local school to see if they do a private collection for kids in their community. Even if they don’t advertise a collection, I know most schools make efforts to make sure kids have what they need.
Project Warmth collects new and gently used coats and blankets to help people in need during the extremely cold weather. In addition, you can make cash donations to help pay utility costs throughout the year. There’s a city-wide coat and blanket collection which takes place in early November. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for instructions on how to reach out to find alternative drop off locations if you don’t want to hold your items until next year.
One Warm Coat
One Warm Coat is a program I’ve just learned about. They also collect new and gently used coats for distribution. You can find drop off locations or make a contribution on their website.
Hands On Approach?
Perhaps you would like a more hands on approach. Serving food to those in need can be very rewarding. This is something you can do as an individual or as a group. The food that nourishes hungry bodies is often a secondary benefit to a “soup kitchen.” Many times, those visiting these facilities get as much out of the social interaction as they do the food.
My grandmother always used to tell me how much better food was when you shared it with someone else. I didn’t really understand that until I was an adult. She was right. Feeding the body is only one part. You have to feed the soul as well.
NourishKC is a unique community kitchen. They serve hot, nutritious meals to anyone who comes, no questions asked. They have a restaurant style dining room where guests are seated at tables. Servers take orders and bring food to the tables. They have volunteer opportunities including food prep, cleaning, wait staff, bussing, and sorting. The organization also has a culinary training program for individuals who are unemployed or underemployed. You can sign up to volunteer as an individual or with a group. The calendar on their website is easy to use for sign up.
The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army serves food on Christmas day. Additionally, they deliver food to many seniors in the community. They still have several volunteer positions open. You do have to sign up on their website and do a background check. In order to be admitted for assistance on the day of the event, you have to have the letter they send you. This is for safety reasons.
If you want to participate, make sure to get registered on their website. You are also able to volunteer for events beyond the Christmas Dinner.
Sending the Love
What about sending a little love to those who have to work on the holidays? I found a few articles which suggested taking care of first responders. Admittedly, I never thought about that but I love it! I have the luxury of spending Christmas Eve and Christmas day with my family. 911 operators, fire and police personnel, EMTs, etc. know a holiday off is a luxury many of them will not get.
When you’re putting together goody baskets of baked goods, how about dropping one off at the local fire or police station? While you are out doing last minute gift of grocery shopping, be extra kind to the cashiers and retail people you encounter. That bit of cheerfulness they get from you will make a difference in their days, believe me. While you are at it, be extra kind to everyone you meet. Make eye contact, say hi, give a smile, offer up a great parking spot. Those are the ways we achieve peace on earth; through goodwill to all.