Santa Claus is Comin' to Town

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Giving Program

These "Santas" volunteer their time to make the holidays a bit brighter for families in need.

Contributors: Hugh Sloan, AFL-CIO Community Services Liaison, Peter Kelly, President and CEO, Lori Clark, Resource Development Officer and Josh Kilgas, Resource Development Officer (at United Way Fox Cities)

By now, your holiday shopping is probably almost done, but we want to encourage you to add one more item to the list…this season, give the gift of time. Over the years, several United Way Fox Cities staff members have done just that, by volunteering for the Boys' & Girls' Brigade's Christmas Giving program. The Christmas Giving program serves financially disadvantaged families in Neenah and Menasha by providing clothing, toiletries and gifts. Here's what our staff had to say about their experiences:

What has been your involvement in the Christmas Giving Program?

Hugh: I have been delivering packages to homes whenever possible for the past 22 years, and I'm looking forward to helping out again this year.

What was your favorite part of volunteering for the Christmas Giving program?

Peter: When my children were in elementary and high school, they helped distribute gifts. It was an opportunity to teach them the spirit of volunteering and to discuss why it's important to help others. One of my kids, who is coming home for the holidays this year, asked when the delivery would take place because he wanted to be a part of it again. It's a memory that lasts.

The holidays are such a busy time of year - why did you choose to volunteer at this time?

Lori: All it takes is one tragedy or emergency to put your family's holiday in jeopardy. Speaking from personal experience, this is one of the worst feelings to have as a parent. Nine years ago this Christmas, I was a parent on the receiving end of assistance at Christmas time. It was a very humbling experience for me. At the time, I was still recovering from being diagnosed with congestive heart failure and was receiving disability while my husband was working part-time at a bar. With 3 young boys to support, we were having a difficult time making ends meet while we were adjusting to the new changes, limitations and restrictions in our life.

I remember a group of Santas showing up at my door with a bag filled with wrapped gifts for each of my boys. I was sure that it was a mistake. Who knew that we were having financial problems? I tried to convince them that is was an error, to take the gifts back and that we did not need help, but we did. Christmas that year was possible because of the supportive community in which we lived and our Santas that delivered.

Fast forward 9 years, I am back to work and able to support my family. I now realize that my life has come full circle by participating in the Christmas Giving program and doing exactly what that group of Santas did for my family all those years ago.

If someone was interested in volunteering for the first time, what advice would you give?

Josh: Pick something that you are passionate about and that you know will make a difference. In the end, you will personally benefit from the experience more than you may expect.

If you would like to get involved in the Boys' & Girls' Brigade's Christmas Giving program next year, they begin "adopting out" families in October. If you are looking for volunteer opportunities this Holiday Season, check out the Volunteer Center of East Central Wisconsin's Holiday Guide.

Happy Holidays from your friends at United Way!