Share volunteers are already beginning preparations for their annual holiday programs. It takes more than 50 volunteers to pull off the festivities which generally serve around 640 needy individuals (250 families) living in the McLean, Great Falls and Pimmit Hills areas. Throughout the season, you will see many community partners helping to prepare for the event with food and toiletry drives, Trees for Food, wish trees, and so much more.
For Thanksgiving, each family will receive a grocery store gift card and a bag of some food staples, as well as a few traditional favorites. At the annual Holiday Celebration in December, each family will be welcomed to a festively decorated hall and served a light meal, holiday cookies and toasty beverages. Santa will be on hand for photographs and will even bring a gift for each child all the way from the North Pole! There will be live music and some giveaways. Before departing, each family will receive their holiday wish gifts, a grocery gift card for a special holiday meal, a bag of toiletries and detergent (these are expensive items that can’t be purchased with food stamps). Babies and toddlers will get baby bags with diapers, wipes, an outfit, and a small toy, and the homeless will get a bag of items especially helpful for life on the streets, such as warm socks, travel size toiletries, and fast food gift cards.
Share is a unique organization in that not only is it entirely volunteer run, it relies on community partners to keep it running. No where is that more evident than for the holiday programs. After clients turn in their holiday wish lists in October, the wishes go out to the faith communities, schools, local businesses and generous individuals.
For instance, Franklin Sherman Elementary yearly has a mitten tree, Haycock Elementary classes adopt families, Giant has a wish tree every year, and many churches have angel trees. Each year, businesses, such as McEnearney Associates Realtors, adopt families for both Thanksgiving and the December holidays, and Child’s Play Toys generously helps Santa fulfill his extensive toy list. There are even folks in the community who have asked their party guests to bring mittens or socks with a gift card attached for Share families. In all, the holiday program team needs to raise approximately $50,000 yearly in donations, as well as procure assorted gift items.
Donors to the Share holiday program can be assured that their gifts will be 100 percent useful to those who receive them. For instance, grocery gift cards are given in lieu of traditional Thanksgiving food baskets because many of the families served come from different cultures and backgrounds with different tastes and so they may not eat traditional Thanksgiving foods. A grocery gift card prevents food waste and allows the families to select foods that will be truly appreciated and enjoyed. Also, the clients fill out a wish survey for each family member and then volunteers help the clients go over the wish list. That way if someone, for example, needs a pair of pants for work, they can ask for a gift card for the appropriate store so they can go try on and select pants that will meet their needs. If someone needs bedding, they can ask for the appropriate size and a favorite color. A single mom can ask for gift cards for her children and then she can select gifts for her children that she knows they will love. Many elderly people just ask for grocery gift cards because they don’t need stuff, they just need a little help making ends meet with their food budget.
Want to be a Share community partner this holiday season? Contact Chris Wilbur at Sharewishes@gmail.com to sponsor a client or family or to find out how your business or organization can help.