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That’s a wrap - Holiday Joy Recap

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Date: Monday, December 24 2018

joytotheworld

'twas the night before Christmas and all through the warehouse, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse (well maybe a mouse - rodents are a real thing this year)!


We've officially completed our 4th year together of Holiday Joy (though the team evolves year to year, myself and Resident Services Manager, Elizabeth Carr remain steadfast in our love for this (slightly overwhelming, but always heartwarming) program. Both our Community Engagement and Resident Services teams join together to form the dynamic group of elves that make this program what it is. Each year we fine tune the system a little more and each year the universe throws us some type of significant challenge to overcome. 

 

In 2015 the week before Christmas I said goodbye to a dog I had shared my entire adult life with and because grief alone wasn't enough, I learned how to work through a nasty bout of norovirus at the same time. In 2016 we should've have all worn ice skates to accommodate the treacherous freezing rain and ice storm that made gift returns and distribution mostly impossible for several days. In 2017 I ended up in a car wreck that totaled my car and left me out of commission for the rest of the season. But at the end of the day none of these things really mattered because these little elves aren't easily disrupted and they know how to throw a cherry on top and muster up a holiday miracle when they need one. This year, though we thankfully avoided any actual catastrophes, we battled with our emails getting caught by spam filters (causing us to miss out on family sponsors who never received our information), coupled with the departure of a long-time director and the subsequent scramble to fill some really big shoes.  Thankfully our newest Holiday Joy Elves, Lexi and Judy, were up for the challenge and hit the ground running. They stepped up in a huge way to make sure the program moved forward and they impressed us all every step of the way. All challenges aside, the program grew more than 40% with the expansion to both the First Place Family Center and the Youth House for girls and yet again, we knocked it out of the park!


Because of YOU we brought the holidays, hope and JOY to more 1,400 people who live in St. Vincent de Paul housing or participate in one of our many housing programs (First Place Family Center, Veterans' Housing Project, Supportive Services for Veteran Families, the Youth House for unaccompanied homeless teenage girls just to name a few). This amazing program brought happiness to nearly 700 children, and equally important, alleviated some of the burden that the holidays bring for their parents. Additionally we servced seniors, veterans and many other individuals who don't necessarily have the network of friends or family that so many of us look forward to connecting with this time of year. With your gifts we filled the better part of a 15,000 square foot recording studio turned Holiday Joy Warehouse and sorted, audited and organized well over 5,000 gifts. With donations from the community, both monetarily and in the form of supply drives (bedding, toys, hygiene products, warm clothing and more), our team shopped the warehouse and ultimately took over a Fred Meyer store as we shopped for more than 300 participants. All the while, working our hardest to give each one the time and consideration they deserve. 


With the help of several local businesses - Bagel Sphere, Mezza Luna Pizza and Jimmy Johns - we kept our team of staff and volunteers fueled and happy while they wrapped, sorted and delivered gifts. With the help of our Resident Services Manager, Elizabeth, our warehouse transformation included a projector and screen that steadily streamed of all the Christmas classics while our elves worked their tails off.


Over the past few weeks we've received phone calls, messages, emails, social media posts and cards from both our sponsors and our recipients have continuously reminded us why this program is so worth the time, effort and sometimes chaos to pull together. More than 150 different people, families, organizations, faith communities and businesses pooled together their resources to make all of this magic come to life. 


I mean it in the most literal sense, we honestly could not do this with out YOU.  You are the folks ready and willing to rally the troops, herd the cats and help others uncover their holiday spirit. You make all the little tags, solicit the donations of things, raise the money, do the shopping, keep track of who did what, hound everyone (in a loving way of course) to bring gifts back and schedule the wrapping parties. We know that your time is valuable and scarce and yet you find the time to do all of this for families you'll likely never meet. It's not the money or the presents that make this program so amazing - those things are just merely a byproduct of the love and compassion your sending out into the world - into our wonderful little communities.  There really aren't words to express what that feels like to experience, for both our staff and our recipients (as you can see I tried all of the words - and it still wasn't enough). At least twice each year this program brings me to tears (in the best of ways). Often the first time is because of someone else's tears of joy when they see what a total stranger has done for them and the second time when I've had a day or two to decompress and then reflect on the magnitude of what we've accomplished... and ultimately write this email.


Whether this was you first year participating or your tenth, or you sponsored one person or two-hundred, what you do really does have a tremendous impact that ripples throughout our community all year long. I hope you you're able to experience even of a fraction of the joy you've brought to others. You are the embodiment of the what this season is about and we are all better, stronger and happier because of YOU.


I wish you all safest, warmest and happiest of Holidays and a New Year filled with all of the opportunity and love you seek.


Until next time...

Ashely Hensley 

Lead Elf

ashely.hensley@svdp.us

541.743.7147