Adventures in Volunteering - Holiday Gift Store Project

As expected, this month was beyond-busy for me, with work, home and volunteering.

I love it though. My volunteer events really make the holiday season the most fun. I have a variety of projects that are seasonal and I always meet new and wonderful people. A lot of people get in the giving-back mood around the holidays and it's my intention to try to rope them in and show them how awesome volunteering is and pass on the volunteer-bug so that they will come back to another event.

One of my favorite projects is the Holiday Gift Store Helpers. Community Partners for Affordable Housing is a local nonprofit which runs various programs at a handful of low-income apartment complexes, things like an after-school kids club, literacy classes, ESL programs, etc. Love that type of stuff.

For Xmas, parents can sign up to receive a gift for each child in their household. But the gifts aren't just handed out randomly - way better than that: twodifferent apartment complexes actually set up a "store" in their community room and the parents can come in and select a gift-for free, of course. I really love this method as I feel it gives the parents more involvement in the gift-giving, rather than just passing them a random gift that may or may not be one that the child (or the parent) will want.

So for this project, we had 6 volunteers to help with different age ranges. The volunteers would help the parent make sure they were at the right age range section and help them select a toy. We had a LOT of donated gifts and we stash away some of the items and replenish the supply on the table, which helps ensure that the very best gifts aren't taken right from the start. It's very well organized and the process to distribute 100 gifts goes REALLY quickly.
CPAH representative explaining the hygiene kit giveaways-which occur monthly for different age ranges.
The project started with us sorting the toys into the different ranges and then manning the tables:

This year I brought in gift-wrappers, in the form of my son Andrew and his choir buddy, Logan. They were awesome and treated us to a few songs towards the end.
Props to the kids for their wrapping - we didn't have any spare tables (or room) so they had to work out of the mini-kitchen. Andrew wrapped gifts on the stove and Logan had this thin half-counter space. I won't say they did the best wrapping jobs, but given the space-issues and the need to go really fast-they did great!

The actual project was only 90 minutes long from start to finish, and I wish it could have been longer, it was great fun helping the parents pick things out. They were very appreciative and you just felt like you were part of something wonderful. I wish we had this same project every month!

And on that note, I think I might look into setting up a monthly birthday club, where we celebrate the kids who have birthdays in each month. We could make a cake, or find a nice bakery to donate one, and have games and door prizes and maybe a small donated gift for each birthday child. Who doesn't love a birthday party?? I think I could easily find 4-6 volunteers to help out each month and if I find a bakery to commit to giving one cake a month, the project is half-complete already! I'll keep you posted.


  1. Brian Miller said...:

    nice...your volunteer posts always inspire joke...

  1. What a cool thing--especially for the parents to select their kids' gifts.

  1. carma said...:

    awesome that you got a boatload of donations!!
    Glad you had a wonderful holiday :) you do so much for so many!

  1. You are such a wonderful person, you epitomize the spirit of Christmas.
    Wishing you a cery happy new year.


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