Sunday, December 16, 2007
I know that it has been a few months since I have written, but I wanted to share with everyone the experience that I had yesterday. For the second year in a row, I volunteered as a shopper for the Salvation Army's Toy Depot. I did it last year as well, and I had a blast. Therefore, when the opportunity presented itself to do it again this year, I jumped on it. This year, I was joined by my mom (who went last year, too) and my co-worker's daughter, Shay. We got to the toy depot at about 8:15 and spent the next four hours helping parents pick out toys for their children to open on Christmas Day. When you see these parents light up at the thought of being able to make their children's Christmas Day special, it really makes you realize how lucky you are. It is also nice to see all of the toys, clothing, and food items that generous people and companies have donated throughout the year to help families in need. To begin with, a marine introduces you to your client, usually a very shy mother, but we worked with a few fathers, too. You walk with your client through the toy isle (donated through Toys for Tots), picking out 2-3 toys for each of their children. Then, at the end of the toy isle, you pick up a box from the Angel Tree donations found in malls. The hardest part of doing this work each year has been realizing that some of these boxes are empty because the children's names weren't chosen from the Angel Tree. Just to try to help, Mom and I went out last night and bought for two teen-aged boys off the tree at Greenbrier Mall. At least we know those two boxes will be filled when their parents get to the depot this week. After picking up the clothing boxes, you take your client to pick up a "mommy gift," which was a cake-shaped candle this year. Finally, you walk your client to the checkout area, where their toys and clothes are packed up by more marines and where they are presented with a box of food and a chicken. The parents leave with the biggest smiles on their faces, knowing that this year will be special for their kids on Christmas Day. Both years I have done this, I have left with so many great stories about shocked parents saying, "we get all of this?" or thanking you every time you place something new in their cart. The highlight of this year's experience was definitely the mother who told us that her kids hadn't had Christmas in four years. I can just imagine what her four kids are going to feel like when they see all those toys and clothes on Christmas. Words cannot describe what it is like to be at the toy depot seeing all of the parents and volunteers working together for others. It really reminds you of the real meaning of Christmas!