“Are you here to volunteer for the event?” asked a young woman driving a mini-van.
“Yes, I am! Thanks for the ride – it’s cold this morning!” I responded, getting into the van with several other volunteers, each thankful for a refuge from the freezing weather.
When we arrived at our destination, I stood in line for my volunteer badge, signed my waiver, and then realized I was in the wrong building, at the wrong event! I consoled myself with the idea that this must happen all the time in Old Town Fort Collins around Christmas – lots of charitable events, lots of volunteers, lots of busy-ness.
Going with the flow, I decided to stay and volunteer. It was for the Children in Need Event at The Matthews House. Our Blue Margin Community Works program had volunteered to set up this event in the past, but this time, I had the privilege of interacting one-on-one with families, helping them gather the items they desperately needed but couldn't afford.
First stop – pictures with Santa. Like me, you may not be aware that a picture with Santa (or even seeing him in person) is a rare experience for some kids. One mom couldn't recall if any of her kids had ever taken a picture with Santa and said it had been 5 years since their last family photo. It was good to help rectify that small tragedy.
Next stop– shopping. As a designated “personal shopper”, I helped families navigate a room full of donated essentials (shampoo, toothpaste, diapers, etc.), then a room full of coats, shoes, pants, hats, shirts, blankets, and the like. There were so many donations of winter coats this year, families were encouraged to take several. Children could also pick out books, and a few toys.
Then, relying on my 8-year old Spanish interpreter (an upbeat, amazing kid), I helped his family gather information on low-cost legal, health, tax, and other services from other non-profits in Larimer County.
Final stop – the food kitchen. Several volunteers had bags of assorted food items ready for the taking – as much as each family wanted.
There were 136 families served that day and over 100 volunteers who helped to make the event happen. Although I had set out for a different destination, serendipity had carried me to one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had. An unexpected blessing.