There is no greater joy than watching a child’s face light up with delight as they open a gift on Christmas morning, but for families living in homeless shelters such as Milly’s Place in Lowell, there isn’t extra money for a present under the tree.
Karen Frederick, executive director of the nonprofit Community Teamwork, which runs Milly’s Place, shared a story with me and my children this week that I’ll never forget.
“Last night we were at a holiday dinner for some of our homeless children and families,” Karen said. “I was talking to a little boy who was about 7 years old. He said, ‘I think I believe in Santa, but last year I waited and I waited and I waited … but he never came.’ The boy said, ‘If I had powers I would go up there and I would talk to that guy.’ ”
But that won’t be necessary this year because that little boy will find a gift waiting for him on Christmas morning, and, perhaps, his faith in Santa Claus will be restored.
Along with my daughter, son and one of his friends, I met with Karen and her dedicated staff on Thursday to deliver hundreds of toys, clothing, books and other Christmas presents we’ve been collecting for children living in homeless and domestic violence shelters throughout Massachusetts.
“Thanks to the kindness and generosity of others, 200 children won’t have to wait this year,” Karen told us. “They will have a gift for them under the Christmas tree.”
I held back tears, and felt a swell of gratitude to live in a community where so many fellow Americans care about those less fortunate. When I wrote a column announcing the Christmas toy drive a few weeks ago, I was blown away by how many people stepped up and donated toys, books, clothing, stuffed animals and other wonderful presents. The Boston Herald donated bags of terrific books — classics like “Charlotte’s Web,” “Make Way for Ducklings” and dozens of others for the older kids living in the shelters.
It’s been such a joy to come home from work over the past month and see bags of Christmas presents left on my front porch with a kind note from so many generous families.
Donations came in from many towns, including Concord, Lowell, Milton, Walpole, Middleboro — and even out of state. Some people dropped off toys directly at Community Teamwork; others ordered online and shipped toys directly to the homeless shelter. A few people sent in money, and the Norwood Montessori School collected five bags of toys. Its students are currently working on 25 to 30 Build-a-Bears as well.
Such an amazing and heartfelt response!
And that’s what Christmas is all about — spreading light and sunshine and friendship to others while making positive childhood memories for so many.
I tell my kids, “In life, it’s not what you get, it’s what you give.”
Wishing all a wonderful holiday season!