Christmas in the midst of a pandemic. I never thought I would ever utter those words, but here I am right in the middle of it all. This year’s Christmas Giving Program, although just beginning, has already caused us a fair amount of consternation.
It all began on July 8, 2020, with a telephone call from a very concerned mother asking, “Will you be passing out Christmas gifts this year?” You could hear the trepidation in her voice and it sent a chill up my spine. “They are already starting to panic,” I remember thinking to myself.
It was very soon after that call I started thinking about how the Christmas Giving Program could possibly work. It was never a question of if, but of how! The problem is simple to define, the potential solution, that’s another matter.
We have over fifty churches, businesses, and families that comprise the major source of Christmas gift donations. We call them giving trees. The process is, we send each location the number of gift tags they think they can get for us. Then, on the second and third Sundays of Advent we have four trucks and a crew of about twenty volunteers go and pick them up, about 7,000 gifts in all. The problem is that because parish attendance is down, around sixty to forty percent, we can expect that the number of gift tags taken from the parish giving tree will be down the same amount. That means we will have a drastic reduction in the number of gifts.
To combat this, we have come up with the idea of a virtual Christmas Giving Tree tag which allows every member of the parish to safely participate. It is a two-part process. First, they select the number of tags they would like. Then, they can drop off their gift at a participating church drop off location listed on our website, or have the gift shipped directly to us at 242 Canterbury Street. We are asking the parishes to let their parishioners know that they can safely participate in the Giving Tree simply by going to our website, www.urbanmissionaries.com, and pressing the Christmas Giving Tree tag button to let us know how many tags they would like to have. We will get the tags to them within 24 hours.
Even with the virtual tag process, we believe that we will have a shortfall of gifts due to the panic situation I mentioned above. How much of a shortfall, we really don’t know, but we have started a Go Fund Me drive to raise $20,000 so that we can go out and buy gifts to cover the shortfall. We are especially concerned about the 11- to 14-year-olds. This category has always been the most difficult group to obtain gifts for simply because their gifts are expensive.
Another facet of this problem is volunteers. Every year we have between 225 and 250 Christmas volunteers. These magnificent people come, and with concern and love, put together a gift bag for a particular child. They do it over and over again until all 2,500 gift bags are made up, tied together by family and finally passed out to the family all before December 24th. We expect that this year, we will have to limit the number of people working at one time to ten. In anticipation of this, we extended the hours the distribution center will be open, earlier in the morning and later in the evening.
So there it is, Christmas in a pandemic!
If you would like to participate let us know how.
To get a tag and purchase a gift go to:
To help us buy gifts by donating to our go fund me page go to:
To volunteer, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will need to know the date you would like to come in, what time you will arrive, how long you plan to stay, and the number of people in your group.
Please keep us in your prayers, and may you and yours have a very Blessed Christmas. May the Good Lord bless you for what you are about to do for “the least, the last, and the left out!”