This evening the kids and I went to help sort toys for Share-A-Gift 2012 and it was a great experience for us. There were other RLH families there but aside from my friend Maria, I had no idea who else was from our group because I've never met most of our new members! Going into it, I pictured a smaller, more intimate room but as soon as we got there I had an "of COURSE" moment, realizing that it would have to be as big and busy as it was in order for them to successfully serve the great number of area families that they provide gifts for each year. They have a couple of days of sorting/donating and then one big "toy distribution" day (December 15th this year) when families can come in and "shop" (for free) for gifts for their kids.
The following excerpts are from the Share-A-Gift website:
"Share-A-Gift is an all-volunteer annual holiday project that has provided toys, bikes, and books for children of low income families in the area of the Boulder Valley School District since 1972. For the past few years, over 600 families representing between 1500 and 2000 girls and boys, birth to age 14, have received these community donations. Any donated gifts that have not found a home with a family by the end of our toy distribution are given to other non-profit organizations that help families-in-need."
"Besides donating, Share-A-Gift provides families, individuals, businesses, schools, and organizations the opportunity to share and participate in our community by volunteering. In particular, our Toy Shop Set-Up days are a great time for families to volunteer together. Perhaps most meaningfully, this is an opportunity for children to participate in gift-giving by sharing their own gently-used toys and books with families who will appreciate getting them."
Although the room was pretty chaotic, it was a really great project for me and my kids. We had brought with us a couple of bags of toys from our house to donate and jumped right in with those first. Owen mostly played and checked out the toys but did manage to put a few in the right spots. He even showed me where the stuffed animals were supposed to go when he saw me carrying an armload. I was impressed when, after finding a nice big Spiderman (the gift he's officially asked Santa to bring him) in with the donations, he was able to just snuggle it a bit and put it back in it's spot without too much fuss. Zoe was totally in her element, though. She really shines at stuff like this because she likes to feel helpful and independent. Once she understood how everything was being organized she took her work very seriously and got down to business. If they hadn't run out of toys to sort by the end of our shift, she would have gladly stayed much longer. I felt really proud, watching her take charge and work hard at it. Once in a while she would come over to me and very seriously ask if I wanted her to take Owen for a bit. Love her.
If you haven't signed up for a shift yet, there is still time! Tomorrow is another toy sorting day and they can still use volunteers between the hours of 4-7pm. You can sign up for anywhere between 1-3 hours (we did 1 hour). Just let me know if you are interested and I'll get you a flier with a map of the location. If you go to their website and see that all the shifts are full you can ignore it--when they heard about our group they made more room! You can also volunteer to help during the toy distribution and clean up days, but they can't take small kids for those days (15 and older). If you are interested in one of those days, you can email the volunteer coordinator directly.
After we finished our shift, we blasted Christmas music in the car and talked about how glad were were to have been able to help out. I thought it only fitting to then treat the kids to dinner at Turley's. Perfect!