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Wrapping up the Holidays

I’ve always looked forward to the holidays.  The word “Christmas” conjures up fond memories of some of my favorite things:  baking cookies, school closing (and therefore no homework) for weeks, sledding in the Ohio snowfall, and of course the magic and excitement as a young child over what Santa would bring. 

Christmas morning as a child was the apex of the year, and I can’t imagine a child waking up with no gifts to open.  Apparently, neither can the more than 1,200 UPSers here at our corporate campus, who have adopted a local elementary school in our annual Project Angel volunteer program.

Project AngelThe recession has tightened the budget for many of us, and parents of the students of Fickett Elementary School have looked to UPS and The UPS Foundation over the past several years to help make the holiday brighter for their over 600 students.  For the past two years I’ve been actively involved with dozens of other volunteers in collecting, organizing, and distributing the gifts to the students, and it is a treat to see the entire process from beginning to end.

On the big day, the volunteers sort the gifts in Fickett’s gym and gather down the street to herald the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus, creating a parade of holiday spirit to get the kids excited (as if kindergarteners need any encouragement to get excited about something).  One by one, the classes visit the gym, where anticipation builds.  As students enter the gym they are divided into their classes.  The waiting area on one side of the gym has two UPSers, including yours truly, reading stories to the children prior to their visit with either Santa or Mrs. Claus.   This proves to be something of a challenge — what kid can pay attention to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs when there are piles of shiny boxes all over the place and Christmas carols being broadcast over the speakers?  And the questions…

“What’s in all the boxes?” (It’s a surprise!) 

” Which one is mine?”  (Santa knows which one is yours!) 

“Can I open it now?”  (Only if today is Christmas.) 

“Are you a real elf?” (Of course I am.  I was asked this last year too, and wonder now if perhaps, despite my stature, I resemble one.)

Some boxes are too large for the child to carry, some have multiple boxes attached together, some are heavy, others light.  The guessing games begin.  To maintain a level of fairness, children are not allowed to open gifts at the school — they take them home and they are opened on Christmas morning. 

But, what a wonderful Christmas morning that is, when every child receives a gift.  Without Project Angel, most Fickett students would not be so lucky.  Before we started our parade, parents stopped on their way back from dropping off their kids to personally thank us for helping out with Christmas.  Everyone seems to be tight on cash these days, but because of those willing to share their blessings, both through donating gifts and time, there is a school full of children whose Christmas will still be merry when it otherwise might not be.

As we get older we sometimes forget the magic the holidays can bring.  When you have the opportunity to provide that magic, you will be rewarded with a feeling that will last until, well, next Christmas- when it’s time to do it all again!

Thank you to all our volunteers for making this another successful Project Angel.   

Category: Caring for Communities
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