The holiday season is usually a time that brings friends and family together and evokes happiness and joy. Individuals in the community are more giving and willing to help others in need. However, during this time of year, there are many that are often struggling; struggling to make ends meet while trying to provide gifts for their families. Some of our clients face this challenge every holiday season. Our annual holiday gift drive, Family Gift Connection, tries to remove that burden for the clients we serve.
Every year Maternity Care Coalition (MCC) sponsors Family Gift Connection, a donor based gift drive that matches gift givers with client families participating in MOMobile and Early Head Start programs. Our Advocates work with our clients’ families to create a needs/wish list that our donors will then use as a guideline to purchase gifts for those families. Started in 1994, Family Gift Connection has matched our client families with donors in the community. In the past few years, we’ve seen over 500+ children receive gifts through this program.
Donors are assigned a family based on how many children a donor would like to ‘adopt.’ Once gifts are bought and wrapped, donors will drop off gifts at the various drop off locations in Montgomery, Delaware, and Philadelphia Counties. Gifts are then picked up from these locations and transported to MCC by volunteers and staff to undergo gift processing.
MCC volunteers Abby Dolan and DeCarlo help sort and package gifts.
Most people are unaware of what goes on behind the scenes of Family Gift Connection. It is truly a community affair as donors, volunteers, and community members ensure that children each receive an abundance of gifts. Throughout the month of December, MCC’s large conference room transforms into a workshop as staff and volunteers from the community assist with receiving and processing gifts for Advocates to pick up for their families. By mid-December, so many gifts overflow the conference room that navigating the room becomes a challenge!
Truly a community effort, Family Gift Connection provides a way for individuals and corporate groups to lend a helping hand during the holiday season. Helene, a longtime volunteer of MCC has been involved with this program for over 8 years.
“Each year when Gift Connection time rolls around I am so touched by the generosity of the donors in support of some of Maternity Care Coalition’s most needy client families and the more than 500 children among them, who are in for unexpected treats and surprises,” Helene said.
Throughout this program, I had the pleasure of speaking with many Advocates who would be delivering these gifts to their client’s families. MaryNissi Lemon, a West Philadelphia MOMobile Safe Start Advocate, expressed how grateful her clients are for this program. One of her clients stated that, “without this program, we wouldn’t have had any presents under our Christmas tree.”
Wells Fargo employees from the Women’s Team Members Network (WTMN) lend a helping hand.
Only 154 children were able to receive gifts 23 years ago when this program was created. This year, 560 children (204 families) have been beneficiaries of this program! This could not have happened without the generosity of the 109 donors who participated by adopting a family. Corporate donors, community organizations and individual donors were extremely generous with providing multiple bags of gifts for most families.
“Since I don’t celebrate Christmas myself, I wake up that morning thinking of the families (mom too!) that I was connected to and picturing them opening their presents,” Marjie Mogul, Senior Director of Research at Maternity Care Coalition, said. She enjoys participating in Family Gift Connection each year, giving her another way to help the communities she serves. Her favorite part of participating in the program: shopping for families with teens. “I love clothes and it’s like vicarious shopping, and I get to see the latest teen fashions!”
For more information about Family Gift Connection and how you can get involved next year, contact Samantha Jeune at [email protected]
Check our flickr account to see more photos from this year’s Family Gift Connection.
Samantha Jeune is the Development and Events coordinator at Maternity Care Coalition. Her primary responsibilities are: managing the volunteer program (particularly for events and days of service); overseeing gift entry and acknowledgments; taking the lead on fundraising event logistics; and running Family Gift Connection. She has a background in research, program/volunteer management, donor services, and working with vulnerable populations.