Each year, the staff at AWSP signs up to sponsor two or three families for the holidays through the Tumwater Lions Club. it's a tradition we look forward to annually as each year draws to a close.
We started our staff tradition about 10 years ago. It used to be that we bought gifts for each other. We'd draw names for a secret Santa exchange, then purchase a surprise gift for the person whose name we chose based on their list of hobbies and interests. While the internal gift exchange was fun, we all agreed that none of us actually needed those gifts, and that the money would be better used shopping for families in need. (We still do a staff white elephant gift exchange just for laughs - more on that in a future blog post!)
The wish lists we receive from the Lions Club are anonymous. Families are organized numerically, and we only find out each student's age, gender, and top three wishes.
The requests from families are never anything huge. More often than not, the wish lists include basic clothing items, shoes, and a simple toy or two. Some children wish for art supplies, some for books, some for legos. Shopping for these families each year not only serves as a team-building exercise for our staff, but it also reminds us how blessed we are. The holidays have always been a challenge for many families financially and emotionally, but the impact of this year has made it harder for even more families and students than usual. As we gathered up our items for each family, carefully labeling and organizing them, we remembered to be thankful for the little things -- which to some people are actually quite big things.
Sponsoring families for the holidays is just one way we work internally as a staff to build culture, engage the community, and close the gap.
What do you or your team do to give back during the holiday season? We'd love to hear about it! Share with us in a comment below.