What’s better than a large man who wears a red suit and works with elves? A not large man who wears a fake beard and works at Unum.
Friday, we collected two tractor trailer loads of gifts for Holiday Cheer from Unum employees. Over 350 elderly and children will be the recipients of their generosity. Think about that: 350 people. That’s probably more people than you will send a holiday card to, and maybe even more people than will fill the pews of your church’s Christmas Eve service. It’s 350 kids and elderly who otherwise wouldn’t have gifts to open on Christmas morning.
I watched with tears in my eyes as the big rigs pulled up to the Youth Services Center on 12th Street. Bikes and bags all but tumbling out of the trucks and passed into the building in bucket brigade fashion. I couldn’t help but think back on my own Christmas’ past spent in a cozy living room filled with empty boxes, crumpled up wrapping paper and family. To think these parents turned-in their children’s wish lists and did the only thing left to do: pray. Pray someone would be kind enough to fulfil them. Pray they wouldn’t have to explain to their children why Santa did come. It’s been hard enough explaining why they will be spending Christmas in a shelter.
Then I think about my Papa. At 85 years old, every Christmas we take a few more pictures and throw in a few more gifts because we all know the reality, he’s not getting any younger. I think about how much he enjoys the chaos of Christmas at our house and how lucky we are he’s here to spend it with us. As the caravan of busses, cars and 18 wheelers pull up to the Elder Services Center, I’m faced with the hard truth that someone’s “Papa” will be spending Christmas alone. No calls, no visits—just an ordinary, lonely day. He’s not hoping for a gift set of Old Spice like my Papa does every year, he needs a blanket. His pajamas have been worn to threads, he’d appreciate a new pair of those, too. Cleaning supplies, underwear—the things he needs but can’t afford to buy.
At the end of the day, when Ol’ Saint Nick pays Chattanooga a visit- for these kids, young and old, it won’t be about the toys. Well, maybe for the young kids, it will be. Hopefully they will play with their favorite things none the wiser of the effort and coordination it took to get them there. But for the parents and elderly, these truck loads say, “I care.” It’s the community saying, “you are more than your situation. This too shall pass. Your needs, however big or small matter. You are not alone nor forgotten in this season or season of life.”
Even with the MASSIVE dent Unum put into our list, we still have lists for elderly and families in need of adoption. If you would like to help, please contact Crystal St. Pierre, Volunteer Coordinator, at email@example.com. Or, visit our Holiday Cheer website.