By Ginger DeShaney
“I am a single parent of two children; my family needs assistance this year because I am currently unemployed and have no money to provide the kids with Christmas presents. Everything in my life is very stressful right now and receiving help with gifts for my children would lessen the burden. Any help would be greatly appreciated.”
The Holiday Helpers program through the South Boston Neighborhood House is more important than ever this year.
With families struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic, this holiday program “helps parents feel a little bit of relief,” said Kathy Lafferty, executive director of the South Boston Neighborhood House.
“While COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate, those already in need in our community are suffering disproportionately from the pandemic’s economic fallout,” Kathy said.
“I am a single father of 4 children and have never needed help before — but I’m hurting right now. I am only working 2 days/week due to the pandemic … My kids have so many needs and I just can’t provide. It doesn’t feel good to have to reach out and ask for help but I do it for my kids. Without this program I will not have anything to give them and I am really worried about that. Please help and thank you.”
So far this year, 344 families have registered for help and families are calling every day; last year at this time, that number was 250.
“The need is great,” Kathy said, noting so many people have been laid off or had their hours cut.
While the program has a lot of support from corporate partners, individuals, and families, some of the donors are struggling as well and may not be able to give as much as they’d like.
“It might not be as robust as in the past, but every child will have something to open under the tree [Christmas] morning,” Kathy said. “I’m confident we can get at least a few things to every family.”
The setup is different this year because of COVID-19.
In a normal year, each family would submit a wish list, indicating sizes, gift ideas, etc. The donors would then shop from the lists and drop off the items at the Neighborhood House.
This year, program staff had to figure out how to keep the process safe while supporting families. Families register online, filling out a form indicating why they need help, clothes sizes, gift ideas. Kathy and staff created Amazon Wish Lists and a Target Registry with items specific to each family.
Kathy knew the items couldn’t be delivered to the SBNH in order to keep staff and participants safe, so she reached out to Jon Cronin as well as Dave Gibbons at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, and they gladly offered a helping hand. Once an item is ordered through the Wish List or Registry, it ships automatically to the Convention Center.
“We are so grateful to them for the space,” Kathy said.
Neighborhood House staff sort the items at the Convention Center for each family.
To sign up to be a donor, go to http://sbnh.org/holiday-helper-2020 and “Click here to become a Holiday Helper.”
You can sign up to donate cash, buy gift cards, or shop the online wish lists. You can also read the recipient families’ stories.
For the online shopping, Kathy is urging donors to purchase by Monday, Dec. 14, at the latest to ensure the deliveries arrive in time. Cash donations and gift cards can be donated right up until Christmas Eve.
The Holiday Helpers program gives people an opportunity to give back, since volunteering looks very different now because of COVID-19.
“The need is great,” Kathy emphasized again. “No donation is too small. If you are able to help, we really appreciate it.”
“We are requesting holiday help this year because COVID affected us pretty bad. I got laid off from my job and we lost our apartment. I’ve actually been staying with family until I am able to get us back on our feet again. Not sure when that will be. I dread the holidays this year because I know my kids will be disappointed and I can’t bear to see that. It’s just been such a bad year all around. Anything you can do to help put smiles on their faces will be a blessing. Thank you.”