Friday, December 14, 2007
Are you familiar with the Christmas Angels from the Salvation Army? You know, the ones that you often find hanging on a tree and that list the name of a needy child that you'd buy presents for? Have you ever wondered where all those donations go or how they get to the kids? Last night i volunteered at Elf Night at the Salvation Army warehouse in Baltimore. Stacey gathered volunteers from her friends and from work in conjunction with a volunteer organization and we helped get boxes ready to go to 4000 kids in the Baltimore area. The best way to describe Elf Night is "barely controlled chaos." Donations are gathered, scanned and sorted by the Salvation Army. Rows and rows of boxes, stacked three high, are marked with the names and ages kids. Gifts that were bought for specific kids are placed in the boxes and then you go through to check that each kids has 3 presents, some clothes, shoes and a jacket. If you are missing anything you go to huge bins of presents sorted by gender and age and choose something (see Jed carefully rifling through) There are dozens of people milling everywhere carrying toys and books and games while muttering to themselves "12 year old boy, 8 year old girl, i need a Dora doll for the 5 year old..." and you hear things like "Are you going to take that Candyland? Has anyone seen a black Barbie? Are there helmets to go with these scooters?" It is like Christmas shopping, except fun. The only drag is trying to get the clothes. There is a corner where all the clothes are sorted; if you need clothes you write down a list of ages, item and sizes and turn it in. After someone has pulled the right clothes for you they call out your name. Unfortunately it took forever to get them. Some enterprising members of the group elected Will to pick up all of the clothes so he turned in slips for about 8 different people and then lurked around the clothing corner, waiting. Once your box was all done you signed off on it and moved to another. Here's Jami completing an order (and i just noticed that you can see half of Karen coming down the aisle as well) It was crazy and fun, as well as a chance to help those less fortunate than myself. I can't really afford to give stuff, so i like to give time instead. The event was from 6 to 9 with most people clearing out around 8:30ish. I started to leave around 9:15, but realized that the staff was pulling out more boxes of sorted toys to refill the bins for today's shift (it takes weeks to get everything done) so i stayed until 10:00 to help. I did get to see some pretty odd things. Diamond is a very popular name. Someone thinks it is appropriate to give a 3 year old a half-naked Barbie with a belly button tattoo. Someone actually named their 3 daughters Carey, Caren and Carol. There are teddy bears with an alarming amount of makeup and fake eyelashes that look like French prostitutes: Probably my favorite thing was a box that i started working on that had written on it "4 stuffed chickens." What? That's just not a phrase you'd ever expect to see anywhere. Lo and behold in the box i found Anybody need a bike?