I helped out with our MLK Gift of Giving program this year.
Bill and I have donated to the program in the past.
Jer is the woman in charge. Wow. She is organized. She has thought of everything.
I volunteered to drive parents home. Many of them take the bus to the church. They don't realize how many presents they will have to take home with them, so having drivers is helpful.
Jer made sure that all of the volunteers know that this program is not a hand out. These parents have to do volunteer hours, attend the parent/teacher meeting, and write a thank you letter for the gifts. (Which Jer publishes as a book. She then gives one to the church and one to the sister school - both of these organizations provide the presents, and leaves one at the tutoring center.)
Maybe I should explain a little more about the program. Our church partners with the MLK elementary school in a tutoring reading program. We help Kindergarten through Second grade students read or learn to read. This is the 26th year of the tutoring program. Students who were in it have come back to help tutor.
The school has 90%+ students on the free school lunch program. Somewhere along the way someone (probably Jer because this is the kind of woman she is) realized these kids aren't getting Christmas gifts. Hence the Gift of Giving program. The students/parents who qualify write out a Christmas list. Between the sister school and our church members, the gifts are donated. Then, the parents come in and wrap them.
Each person who signs up to make a gift donation is asked to spend at least $40.
Jer goes through and makes sure all the gifts are at least equal to that amount. She fills in with other donations if not.
It is a huge operation.
She also asks for donations of bows, ribbon, wrapping paper, gift tags, tissue paper, boxes, tape, and gift bags. She has thought of everything.
Then, somewhere along the way, someone (probably Jer again) realized that the mothers aren't getting any gifts.
Now there is a table full of gifts for the moms. (We have gifts for dads too.) They each get to pick out one present. If they want, a volunteer will wrap it for them so that they also have something to open on Christmas morning.
While I was waiting to take someone home, I was helping at the check-in table. I was handing out the thank you paper. The moms were returning them to me. It was a little slow so I had some time to read through those letters.
These moms are so grateful. Their words may be simple but their joy and love jumps right off the page. It is the best reminder this season.