By Jennifer Weber, director of neighborhood centers
When you were a child, what did you look forward to around the holidays? Was it sledding down a big hill after tiresomely walking in full snow gear? Was it sleeping in during winter break, waking up wrapped in warm blankets in your bed? Or, the anticipation of ripping the wrapping paper off of all your gifts? While these memories and experiences are common, there are many children who don’t get to experience them.
Often enough, we forget. We forget that many children do not have snow gear to play outside, or a bed to wake up in, or a gift to open during the holidays. These struggles existed before the pandemic, many times experienced by families served at Wisconsin Youth Company’s neighborhood centers — Elver Park and Theresa Terrace.
It is now, in the midst of a pandemic, that we are seeing the intensified effects of financial strain on our children and families. The number of families we have delivered meals to or visited our pantry are in the hundreds. The likelihood of families requesting rent assistance with tears in their eyes is just as high.
The basic needs of food and shelter financially outweighs holiday gifts and toys. Even though families want nothing less than to see holiday spirit and smiles on their children’s faces. With love and perseverance, our families show up on time, each day, trying to make a way.
At the neighborhood centers, we can’t change the world, but we are good at making children smile. A smile so big that you can see it in the eyes, behind the mask. Our holiday effort is to continue these smiles and spread them into holiday cheer, providing toys and gifts to our youth.
Six reasons why this toy drive is important to our community:
- Sparks the discovery of a new interest or skill in a child
- Creates community cohesion during a time of distance
- Gifts a magical moment to a child
- Alleviates the angst of a parent who cannot provide for the holidays
- Provides something for a child to call their own
- Gifts hope for a changed 2021
This pandemic has forced itself upon us, flipping our worlds upside down. Still, our centers and our community will persevere, providing warm holiday experiences for our children to look back on.
Please consider donating to our Toy Drive. You can submit a monetary donation online and our staff will shop for children’s’ gifts, or order a gift off our Amazon Wishlist and it will be delivered to Elver Park Neighborhood Center. Thank you for making our children’s and families’ holidays better this season.