I met some of Santa’s favorite helpers yesterday in Los Angeles. Rhonda and her volunteers were in a warehouse one block away from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles collecting gift cards and gifts for families in need.
We met thanks to my daughter’s Girl Scout leader Mary Perkins reaching out to The Holidays From the Heart Program in Novemember. She wanted our daughters to give back to those in need.
Holidays From the Heart is a program that offers basic needs and Christmas gifts to financially challenged families. These families are nominated by the professional hospital staff at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles who have a child with an acute or chronic illness.
The program began in 1993 with just two families. In 2015, over 569 families in the Greater Los Angeles area, helping at least 3,800 people. In 2016 they are helping 360 families.
The function of Holidays From the Heart is to alleviate stress and provide cheer to these families during the holiday season. Not only do these families worry about their sick child, they have mounting bills, and other family members to take care of at this time of year.
Each family nominated is interviewed by a staff member to determine the families needs and wishes during the holiday season. Based on this list, the helpers try to gather all of the items on the list.
Our leader Mary Perkins gaves us each a budget of $75 to purchase gas and grocery store gift cards, socks and slippers, coats. Our girls had two fundraising events – selling Girl Scout Fall products and a fundraiser at Blaze Pizza. The troop shopped for necessities and a few fun holiday items for the families.
When we drove to Holidays From the Heart, a group of young volunteers approached our car and offered a donation sheet to complete. While filling it out, Rhonda who heads up the program approached our car. This kind woman with a warm smile shared with us, “When a boy asks for a new toothbrush and toothpaste on his wish list, we realize this family is seeking just basic necessities.”
After the holidays, Rhonda puts together hundreds of backpacks filled with basic needs to help a family move forward. We asked if our girls could help throughout 2017 with her programs for our Silver Award and with twinkle in her eye she said YES!
If you would like to help Rhonda and her staff here are 5 Ways You Can Give:
2. Make a Gift in Kind Donation like our troop did for the holidays. Holidays from the Heart welcome gifts in bulk from individuals or corporate sponsors. Some of the most needed items include:
Grocery Gift Cards (desired stores: Food 4 Less, Ralphs, Jons, Vons)
Gas Station Gift Cards (desired stations: Arco, 76, Shell, Chevron)
Movie Theater Gift Cards
Target or Walmart Gift Cards
Pajamas for all ages and sizes (separate pieces with button tops work best)
Onesies for babies and toddlers of all sizes
Backpacks/tote bags (binders, paper, pens, highlighters, pencils)
Personal hygiene, grooming and beauty sets/kits
Deodorant, soap, razors, shaving cream, lotion, shampoo/conditioner, brushes/combs, toothbrush/ toothpaste
Makeup, nail polish, barrettes, hair ties
Baby shampoo, thermometers
Diapers sizes 3 to 6 as well as pull-ups, bottles, pacifiers, rattles, teething rings
Housewares (bath and kitchen towel sets, eating or cooking utensil sets, pots and pans, dish sets)
Clothing for teens and adults (jackets, sweaters, hoodies, sweats, packaged underwear, socks, jeans, leggings)
Sneakers and shoes for all ages and sizes
Sports equipment and protective gear (skateboards, scooters, basketballs, footballs, baseballs, soccer balls, elbow pads, knee pads, shin guards, all sizes of helmets)
Educational and developmental toys for children over 8 and under 3 (Legos, board games, family-friendly DVDs; shape sorters, pull toys, musical toys, crib mobile)
Dolls reflecting a variety of ethnic backgrounds
Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your contact information and a description of the items that you wish to donate.
3. Sponsor a Family – This is done before Thanksgiving. As a sponsor, you will receive a checklist that provides the names, genders, ages, sizes and needs/wishes for each family you sponsor. Needs and wishes are suggestions only. To request a family to sponsor, indicate the size of family you wish to sponsor along with your contact information and phone number. When you are assigned a family you will be contacted by a coordinator who will help you through the process. Suggested spending is $75 – $150 on each family member, with children receiving approximately the same number of gifts.
4. Volunteer – Opportunities available are based on your strengths, skills and interests. Many of the volunteer opportunities can be done from a remote location and at your convenience. To sign up to volunteer, email email@example.com with your contact information, phone number, and details about your availability. During November and December, Rhonda is looking for North Pole Workers. Two hour shifts include:
Organize and maintain North Pole inventory
Assist with paperwork and answer phones
Receive, sort and organize donations
Log incoming donations
Shop to fill gaps in the North Pole inventory and fulfill family needs/wish lists
Drivers (December 15th – 24th) deliver gifts to family homes.
5. Host a Gift Card Drive (November – December)- Invite friends and family to help support families by donating gift cards for Target, Walmart, grocery stores and gasoline. This can be done on your own time schedule.
With all the work Rhonda does throughout the year I nominate this amazing woman as Santa’s Volunteer of Year 2016.