For volunteers on the Salvation Army’s annual Shut-in Sunday, delivering simple Christmas presents and good cheer meant stepping gingerly up snow-slicked porch steps.
It meant rapping cold knuckles on rattling screen doors while dogs barked across the street or mewling cats ranged underfoot.
From inside the door would come the muffled inquiry, “Who is it?”
Once the purpose of the knocking was announced, the door would open to someone like Jearlene Williams, 89, and her husband, Lloyd, 91.
“I’m too blessed to be stressed,” Jearlene Williams sang out in greeting. “Bless you.”
Nearly 60 volunteers fanned out across the city to deliver nearly 600 packages with fleece blankets.
The Williams’ gifts were delivered by 67-year-old Tom Weiford of Overland Park and his 15-year-old grandson, Connor.
“They truly feel blessed,” Weiford said after the duo had delivered about a dozen of the gift packages. “It really makes you feel good to be with them.”
The number of people who signed up to receive packages or who were put on the list was about 200 more than a year ago, said Salvation Army Maj. Charles Smith.
It suggests the need is high for people who are shut in or wanting some extra seasonal comfort, he said.
“I think we’re an older society now,” Smith said. “More people are alone. We’re more transitory. More have children who are living elsewhere.”
The Salvation Army may be seeing some effects of economic strain, because while it had plenty of volunteers to deliver the gifts, the city overall is well behind last year’s pace in the amount of dollars being placed in the seasonal red kettles, Smith said.
Shut-in Sunday has been happening in early December for about three decades, and this was the sixth time that Tom Weiford, the local Salvation Army’s advisory board chairman, has joined the delivery mission.
This was Connor Weiford’s second time. It was particularly enjoyable, he said, because so many of the people receiving the gifts invited them into their homes.
They heard a little bit about Lloyd Williams’ World War II service in the South Pacific. They laughed over cat stories with Barbara Richardson, 73, and husband Willie Richardson, 77.
Obedia Brown, 85, opened her package and unfurled a pink fleece blanket.
“Oh, thanks a lot,” she said. “Merry Christmas to you.”