Dozens of homeless children will have a moment of joy to remember this holiday season because of the efforts of a group of embroiderers and seniors.
That is what Ginny Hildreth and Ellen Cornely hoped as they stood Wednesday near stacks of fleece blankets, dolls, remote-controlled cars, yo-yos, gloves, crayons and other items destined to end up in bags at the Union Gospel Mission’s women and children’s shelter.
Kennewick’s Discount Vac and Sew’s embroidery club joined with the residents of the Charbonneau retirement community to create and fill 55 “Santa” bags.
When the club initially started to put together the bags in October, they only expected to have enough to fill a dozen, said Hildreth, a club member and the store’s owner.
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“We weren’t going to do that many, because it’s hard to fill that many,” she said.
Cornely, a club member and Charbonneau resident, helped turn a dozen bags into 55 by bringing the project back to the residents.
“They kind of ran with it,” Hildreth said. “They did a competition between the three floors.”
None of the floors wanted to be outdone, so the competition ended in a tie. People who couldn’t leave the residence handed Cornely money to buy items. The residents were inspired by the fact that all of the gifts will be distributed locally.
“Here we call it a community, and it’s a community affair, and it’s something they jumped on,” Cornely said. “The key thing is that it just takes a few to do a lot.”
The club members decorated each of the bags with embroidered cartoon characters and Christmas figures. Each of the club members put together at least five of the bags, spending roughly an hour on each, Hildreth said.
Each child will get a blanket and likely a coloring book, crayons and toothbrush. The majority of the children spending time at the mission during the holiday season are younger, so the volunteers tailored their gifts toward their audience, but purchased some items for older children as well.
The most important feature of the bag is a spot where a parent can add the name of the child, giving them something that is theirs.
The bags will be delivered with slips identifying what is inside, allowing the child’s parent to pick out a bag that fits their child.
By allowing parents to select the gift for the child, it makes it personal in a way that a stranger handing the gift to the child can’t be, Hildreth said.
Chariss Warner from the women and children’s shelter at the Union Gospel Mission told Hildreth that the gifts in the bags are a special moment for children during the holiday season.
For Hildreth, a former foster child, these bags have a personal meaning — some of the children coming through the mission end up in foster care, she said.
“When you go into foster care, most of the time you have the clothes on your back and that’s it. It’s a pretty sucky ride for the kids,” she said.
They can take the bag and the items in the bag into foster care and have something more than just their clothes.
The club is planning to do the project again next year, Hildreth said, only they want to start earlier.
“We’re starting in January this time,” she said. “It’s such a neat project. ... There is a need, and it’s something that we can do.”