Although the holidays are usually a festive season, many people in the Kansas City area have felt the pinch of hard times. On Monday night, Jewish Family Services tried to bring a little more cheer into the holidays for its clients.
The social service agency held its annual wrapping party at the Jewish Community Center to decorate presents for about 350 people on its client list. The gifts included items such as bed linens, cookware, coats, hats and gift cards.
At the gift card station, volunteer Patti Friedman distributed packages to be wrapped and sorted ones that had already been wrapped with an assembly-line pace. She described her first time at the wrapping party as “fun and frenetic.”
“I just think it’s great, as a community, to do something fun that helps others,” she said.
Wrapping all the items — even things most people would think of more as essentials and less as presents — can make the experience nicer for those in need.
“There were kids we bought underwear for, but they got it (wrapped) as a present, not as a have-to,” Friedman said.
There was plenty to wrap at the gathering. About 70 volunteers wrapped approximately 600 gift items and 200 gift cards in an hour. Later in the week, volunteers will deliver the finished packages to the families.
“Everybody likes to unwrap presents,” said volunteer Sue Zevitz of Overland Park. Her favorite part of the experience was “knowing how the families are going to feel when (the presents) come into their home so beautifully wrapped.”
When it came to gathering the presents, area synagogues, schools and families chipped in to adopt families through Jewish Family Services.
It helped the gift donation effort that Hanukkah is later this year. In 2013, it coincided with Thanksgiving, and many people weren’t in holiday-buying mode yet. This year, it starts the evening of next Tuesday.
Many of the JFS clients receiving presents this year also get help from the group’s food pantry. Taly Friedman, director of volunteer engagement for JFS, said that because of the increased food access, she’s seen more clients request cookware this year.
She’s happy that the wrapping party drew so many people.
“This project is a great way to bring the community together. It’s one of our best volunteer opportunities for families. Several families came and spent an hour wrapping presents together,” she said.
Beth Sherry and her children, Gabe, 5, and Leah, 9, came back after participating last year, because they wanted “to have fun and do something good for people in need,” Sherry said.
For Esther Grudnick of Prairie Village, being at the wrapping party is a yearly tradition.
“It’s so much fun, and it means so much to me to look at the items and know they’re going to someone who’s going to appreciate them,” she said.
Others, such as Marlene Krakow of Overland Park, were there for the first time this year.
She appreciated the community outreach aspect of the event.
“You can share in their joy and bring a little happiness to them,” she said.