I really enjoy about Christmas is the seasonal opportunity to write post after glowing post about all the volunteers we get at the Holiday Store. Even among those who are there sort of under duress- Boy Scouts, youth groups, Key Clubs, student councils- you seldom get a total grump. Plenty of Klass Klowns, or the somewhat inattentive among the kiddos, and possibly a guy who has a Bright Idea he's determined to implement among the grown-ups, but the vast majority are simply good folks who want to give to their community and are grateful for the chance to do something tangible for someone else.
If I stop and really think about it, the sheer size of our operation is staggering. We have 1000 + families signed up. Experience tells us that we might have a no-show rate of 20%, but we have to prepare as if everyone will be there. In my department, that means constructing 1400-1500 pre-made food boxes (about 40% of our families will qualify for two boxes).
This entails receiving the donations, setting up a sorting station, supervising the sorting crews who sort through the foodstuffs and box up not only the categories we'll be keeping on site to make boxes, but also the items we want to send back to the agency to use there. Besides the actual sorters, we have someone taping and lableling storage boxes, someone handling the trash from the donations- bags and boxes-, someone carting the filled boxes to their proper spot along the storage wall and someone handling the food we won't be using.
Filling the food boxes is the same, but in reverse: we empty the storage boxes onto tables, fill the boxes from a specified list, fold them shut and stack them in another storage area in columns of five ('cause it's all about the decimal system). And taping new boxes and handling the trash. The din created by twenty-five LDS Scouts and their leaders is not to be believed, but they made over 100 boxes in an hour.
It looks impossible on the surface. But dozens of people come through our volunteer program and it all gets done. Like I told the group this afternoon who sorted a pile of food about 8' x8' x5',
"This is like a holiday miracle." Even if I know it can be done- because I've seen it done so often- it still amazes and gratifies me.
Everyday people forming a small, short-lived community to benefit others. Other people being as generous as they possibly can, even in difficult economic times. Seems as if everyone is convinced that everyone else is worse off than they are- and they should do something about it.
We've been asked so often if donations are down and are so happy to say that they aren't. People who've worked hard for two hours hauling around canned goods checking to see if we have any more open volunteer spots because they can come back if we need them.
And that's just the food service. Don't get me started about the toy sorters, and the set-up teams who lay out and decorate the store, and the people who bag the stocking stuffers, and put together bikes and the dry-cleaners who cleans our gently-worn coats ( the only not-new items in the store) for free and the folks who stock the tables with gifts and shop with the families and carry their purchases and their food boxes to the car.
Because that's too much generosity for one post.