This year is my fifteenth year coordinating the holiday gift program at REACH. It is one of the highlights of my year. I love the holiday gift program because year after year I am reminded that I am a part of a huge community of kind, thoughtful, committed individuals.
Fifteen years of coordinating the holiday gift program may sound like a lot, and it is. I also know that many of you – the people, churches and businesses who donate to this program – have been doing so for even longer. Year after year, you come back. You tell me about the hours you spent finding just the right purple floral bedding set or how you had bought a Frozen doll for your granddaughter and upon realizing they were sold out, you donated that doll to a family and told your granddaughter she could wait until they are stocked again in January.
Others of you emailed us out of the blue this year. You heard about REACH through a friend, on Facebook, by Googling “holiday drive” or because you used to come to a support group here and because of the help you once received, you are now able to offer your support to someone else.
Almost 200 donors participate in this program and, for most of you, this isn’t an individual thing. Whether you got your parents or your 20 colleagues to join you, I know these 200 donors represent over 1,000 individuals who offered a Dunkin Donuts gift card, a bucket of Legos, or a bike. Maybe you were the one who offered the physical space to collect gifts from your book club, or maybe you offered your car and time to drive the gifts to our office. The number of people who make this program possible is hard to fully comprehend. So many of you share with me not only how much you enjoy supporting this program, but how amazed you are by the organizational elements of it, by the quick answers to your questions and by the joy you feel from the staff. I share your amazement at this time of year, and every day I come to work at REACH.
The holiday gift program is a concentrated dose of many of the things I love about REACH. This week in December – from when we start collecting gifts from donors, through our annual party with crafts and great food, and ending with gift distribution to families – is really like any other week at REACH. What I love about this week is what I love about REACH every single week of the year:
- We work together – This program is truly a team effort. Different staff and volunteers manage various aspects and talk through details for months. We brainstorm together, we plan together and we work side by side all week. We ask each other for help, we adapt our schedules, and we show up.
- Except when we can’t show up – We do crisis work and sometimes crisis happens. Sometimes we get sick or family needs arise and we just can’t do what we thought we could. So we say ‘No’ when we can’t do any more. We bend and adapt and support each other.
- We are intentional – because people like to know what to expect. So we plan and strategize. We try to think ahead and communicate and set expectations. And then we modify as needed – without blame or anger.
- We make mistakes. We forget details big and small, we may disappoint each other. We may hurt one another – by stepping on toes while carrying large boxes, or stepping on feelings when we’re careless or unaware.
- We hold ourselves and one another accountable – with love. And we try again.
- Most importantly, through it all, we laugh. We find moments of joy and connection.
At REACH, we believe change is possible. By participating in the holiday gift program, you have impacted the lives of so many and by doing so, you have changed my life. During a season that can bring on many emotions – both joyful and challenging – you bring me hope. As we wrap up another year, I want to take a moment to say thank you. Thank you to the entire REACH community. Thank you for your generosity and thoughtfulness towards the hundreds of families who received gifts and for reminding me that all of this kindness and love is around us every day of the year.