OAC Volunteers at Mary’s Place’s Holly Jolly Holiday Party

While the holidays are often thought of a time to bring people together, for some families, the happiness of this time of year is overshadowed by the concern that they won’t be able to put food on the table or gifts under the tree. Over the holiday season, OAC volunteers with organizations that help alleviate this worry for families in need.

The Giving Tree now stands in the lobby of our Seattle office completely bare, except for a few sparkly ornaments. Just a few weeks ago, it was blanketed with white gift tags describing holiday wishes. In support of Mary’s Place – a non-profit intent on helping homeless women, children and families – our staff took every tag and turned these wishes into a reality.

Kaley Bennet, Project Coordinator, shops with her daughters for the Mary’s Place tags each year. “For me the giving tree was a reminder for my girls that not everyone is as fortunate as they are, “said Kaley, “and sometimes we need to stop and think about what’s going on around us.”

More than 60 gifts of toys, teddy bears, shoes and games were delivered to Mary’s Place for the annual Holly Jolly Holiday Party where homeless kids and parents shop for presents for each other.

Complementing the giving tree, OAC staff also volunteer at the party, which buzzes with kids waiting to see a special Santa, parents ecstatic to shop for their little ones, and more than a dozen OAC volunteers ready to shop and serve. The kids, teamed up with a personal shopper, stroll down Candy Cane Lane selecting and wrapping gifts for their parents, while the parents and grandparents go to Santa’s Toy Shop and do the same for the children.

“The Holly Jolly Party was such a fun and high-energy event,” said Chris Kreifels, Senior Project Manager. “My favorite part was shopping with seven kids to find something for their moms.”

OAC has volunteered for three years at the event and continues to grow the involvement of our elves every year. “This was my first-time volunteering at the Holly Jolly Holiday Party and it was a pretty amazing experience helping parents and kids shop for each other,” said Paula Welly, Marketing Coordinator. “When I came out of Candy Cane Lane with one of the kids, Michael Bennet of the Seattle Seahawks, was on stage dancing in a Santa costume. As he came off the stage, we asked him to sign her mom’s present. He was happy to do so and seeing the awe and excitement in the little girl’s eyes made my holiday season.”

As part of the event, each child gets to pick out a winter outfit for themselves to keep them warm through this holiday season. Chris reflected on this experience, “I really enjoyed picking out a pink dress for three-year-old Sarah, who has the same name as my youngest daughter. It reminded me how important it is for all of us to watch out for each other. Looking forward to giving more of my time in 2018!”

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