Hello fellow 4-h-ers! Its that time of year again when we begin thinking about "giving." Giving has many identities; monetary, personal, time, sharing etc. Three years ago, my kids and I read an article about a lady and her family who were "de-cluttering" their home before the holidays. You know, cleaning out closets to make room for all the new things coming in. In doing so, the woman was wanting to show her children a new way to think of giving and getting. She didn't have any "extra" money (who does??) so she set up a table in her front yard (she lived in a warmer climate) and put all the gift-worthy toys and extra things out on it. She made a sign that said "Free Christmas." She gathered some extra wrapping paper and sat with her children at the table. They were amazed at the first timid "shoppers" that browsed their small offering. They wrapped the gifts that were chosen and a warm feeling began to grow within those family members. That warm fuzzy feeling has grown into an annual holiday tradition and many people donate gifts. People from all over the city come to shop the Free Christmas. Some are homeless, some are in shelters, some have just hit dire straights due to lay offs, medical bills and the like. No questions are asked, no hoops to jump through in order to be "worthy" of the Free shopping day. That story inspired my children I. Three years ago, we went through our closets and garage and stuff and came up with some donations that we considered "gift-worthy." We shared our idea with our friends and neighbors, and they too started collecting and gathering. We had our first "Free Christmas" at the Sagle Senior Center. We offered free gift wrapping to those who wanted. We made flyers and distributed them at the shelters, at the food bank, the WIC office, Panhandle Health, anywhere we could think of. We were interviewed in the Daily Bee and Channel 4 even called. We spent the evening before our event carefully arranging the donations in such a way as to be like a boutique. We carefully displayed tea sets, Barbies, snow boots and more. The next morning we arrived an hour early. We planned to open the doors for shopping at 10am. There was already a line waiting when we got there. It was sleeting, cold and early morning and the line was 20 people deep. They were bundled up in coats, scarves if they had them, quietly talking amongst themselves, eager to see what waited for them. It brought tears to my eyes. Who knew of the need? Who knew how many lives we were about touch. We opened the doors and the flood of people was amazing. We had EVERY walk of life. We had people with diabilities, people dressed nicer than me, single moms, families who had just lost their homes (one in a fire, another due to lack of money) Most were shy, not wanting to meet our eyes. Most questioned, was it "really free?" We wrapped like Santa's Elves on Red Bull! There was paper and ribbon everywhere. We had a small cd player playing Christmas music and offered hot chocolate and cookies. We were completely "sold" out of our Free Christmas within 90 minutes. Many expressed deep thanks for the opportunity to put something under their tree for their loved ones. Yes, I've had people ask me how do we regulate who gets what, who gets in. My response is always the same. They have to sleep at night. Whether they "needed" the Free Christmas or not is between them and God. All I can do is help organize it and trust that the Lord will bring those who need to be there. Who am I to judge? We have had our times when things were very, very tight. It didn't look that way on the outside, because we are all good at making things look better than they are. So I will not judge who can come and what they can take. As I said, if they feel they need to be there, then so be it.
Lat year I brought the idea to our 4-H club. The Beaver Creek Kritters. I thought it would be a good community service project and it would help our family with extra hands to accept donations, help arrange the displays, help wrap, help clean up. Last year was a success. The club has decided to partner with us again this year, for which I am thankful for. We will be hosting the event December 5th. We will be at the Sagle Senior Center on the 4th to accept donations. If you or your club members or friends and family would like to donate we would appreciate it very much. If you would like to stay and help and work towards your club's community service, that would be welcomed as well. We are in need of tape and ribbons, we have plenty of paper for wrapping. Last year we lacked men's gifts, tools, mugs, nice clothing, gloves, hats etc....if you have anything you would like to donate, please contact us, call Susan at 290-1320 to coordinate pick up of your items, or if you have any questions please contact me, Adrienne at email@example.com, or 597-2280. CD's, DVD's, books, toys, dishes, kitchen items, nick knacks, games, complete puzzles, anything that is in a gift worthy condition is appreciated. If there are any items left, we donate them to the local thrift stores. Sometimes we get phone calls after the event from those who couldn't make it and we've wrapped stuffed animals and pretty little girl's dresses and delivered them Christmas week. Please join us in redefining what it means to give. Your time, your extra things, your thoughts, your effort. Thank you!