2017 total: $12105.73
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Thursday
Dec222011

Christmas Crazy 2011 Conclusion: Part Two

I had no expectations as I parked my car in front of the Womansplace administrative building, a fact which was evidenced by my initial response as I walked through the doors. "Oh," I thought. No real impressions, just more of a "This is the situation. It is what it is."

I walked into the room where the staff asked that we place the toys. It appeared to be an old gymnasium with a stage on one end and a few long tables scattered around. On one table there was a pile of toiletries, another housed some clothing, yet another held a small stack of baby toys, and then there were two other tables that were mostly empty.

It was the very last second that Womansplace was accepting donations for Christmas. Actually, my middle name is "Procrastination," so it might have been about five minutes past the very last second.

The Womansplace staff was even more devoid of expectations than I was. As we worked out how we wanted to arrange all of the toys in the room, it became clear that the two mostly empty tables were intended to hold toys for older kids. The table that was in good shape held baby toys. The babies were covered. The preschoolers and grade schoolers and teens . . . not so much. The Womansplace staff had no idea we were about to bring into the room, nor were they concerned about it. ANY help was welcome. Anything that we were about to do to help fill those tables up was going to be hugely appreciated.

When I spoke to the Childrens Programs Coordinator a months ago about how we could best help Womansplace meet the needs of their child clients, she had mentioned that people sometimes donate toys for the little kids, but the older kids are often forgotten. I had purposely shopped for toys with that thought in mind, so the toys from Christmas Crazy most definitely leaned towards the 8 and over crowd. There were some things for the younger kids, but anytime I could find something that was perfect for a 10 or 12 or 14-year old, I had grabbed it.

I had also made it a point to shop with the situation in mind. These are kids who are in the midst of transition. They might really like a giant wood play kitchen, but it's not a practical gift. Smaller more portable toys were a better choice.

As the Womansplace staff begin sorting through the piles of toys we carried into the room, they noted that the toys were for kids that they really needed things for and that there had been thought put into what was there. They noted the trend towards smaller, more portable items and they noted the presence of toys for kids of all ethnic backgrounds.

Can I just say, the fact that they noticed that there were African American dolls and such made my day. Every year it's a giant pain in the ass to make sure that there are a few toys that minority kids will identify with, so the fact that it was noticed and appreciated more than made up for the hassle.

And then the staff began to sound like a chorus, all singing the same song. "These are exactly the sorts of things the kids have asked for!" and "I know EXACTLY who would love this one!" and "This is amazing!"

I wish I could bottle up the love that was floating around that room right about then. It was absolutely fantastic to be surrounded by people who have dedicated their lives to helping others but yet were genuinely blown away by YOUR generosity.

And they were BLOWN AWAY.

When we were done sorting and piling and unpacking, it looked like Toys R Us had thrown up all over that room. It was a beautiful sight. The staff said things like, "You can't even imagine how happy this is going to make our kids," and "This is going to be the best Christmas ever!"

Just between you and me, that half hour we spent delivering toys was better than Christmas. It was honestly one of the most rewarding days of my life.

Thanks to everyone who helped make it possible. You done good, y'all.

Wednesday
Dec212011

Christmas Crazy 2011 Conclusion: Part One

When I started Christmas Crazy three years ago, I had very high expectations. I expected to raise $1000 for a local domestic violence shelter to use to provide Christmas gifts for children. If you've been around these parts for a while, you know that so-called "lofty" goal turned out to be absolutely adorable.

You guys blew it out of the water.

The next year I raised my expectations a bit and, once again, was completely blown away by the power of the nice people who live in my computer.

This year you guys did it again. I had a goal set in my head, but y'all just plain destroyed it. I don't know what I did to deserve your awesomeness, but thank you because you made one of the most rewarding days of my life happen.

Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

This year Christmas Crazy was a bit more than just a November fundraiser hosted on this site. There was an event sponsored by Visit Pittsburgh, Crazy Scary sponsored by ScareHouse, and a few really small little things that happened in between those two events.

Going into November, there was already $4510 in the Christmas Crazy pool.

$4510 before we even got started. KABOOM!

Then we started the magic here. It came down to the wire, but you guys came through with the $3500 I was looking for ... and then some. Once I added in donations I picked up at Cafe Solstice, the items that came in thanks to the generous folks at Planet Smoothie and X Fitness, Benjamin's haul, and a few other one-off toy donations, there was another $4620 ready for action.

The 2011 total for Christmas Crazy was . . . drum roll please (mostly because I need a second to do the mathy-type stuff) . . .

$9120.00

$9120.00!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

NINE THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY DOLLARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(I hope you didn't need any exclamation points because I just used them all.)

OK, so, the breakdown in how it was all distributed:

ScareHouse sent Alle-Kiski Area HOPE Center a check for $3000. It was the proceeds from Crazy Scary and let me just say thank you so much to everybody who made that happen because it will make a HUGE difference this Christmas for the people who benefit from the services provided by HOPE Center.

The rest turned into toys and gift cards for Womansplace. I'll tell you all about dropping off those toys tomorrow, but let me just say THANK YOU GUYS SO MUCH!!!! (Look! I found a few more exclamation points!)

Dropping off those toys to a group of shocked domestic violence shelter workers was pure magic.

PURE MAGIC.

Thank you so much!

That's about half of what we delivered on Friday.

I most definitely have the best blog readers that ever existed.

Tuesday
Dec202011

Generational Similarities

My eyes settled on him as we sat at a red light, not-so-patiently waiting for our turn to travel slowly down the crowded road. He stood in a parking lot, a heavy bag over his shoulder, looking down at a pothole large enough to swallow a car. It was the kind of pothole that most anyone would look at and just start cussing. It appeared that the man who was nearly doubled over from age was doing exactly that.

He gave that pothole a piece of his mind and then some.

The traffic light was a long one, so I continued to watch the old man in the tan jacket and freshly pressed slacks. He finished chewing out the pothole and slowly hobbled his way towards a car. "I really hope he's not going to be driving," I thought.

Call me Judgy McJudgerton, but I'm one of those people who thinks EVERYONE should have to take a driving test every five years or so. Half this world has forgotten how to drive, and it only gets worse as we all turn into senior citizens. The old man with the bag was so doubled over from the years that it seemed improbable that he could see over the steering wheel with any sort of effectiveness.

Fortunately, he walked past the car and headed for the bus stop. That seemed a much better idea in my judgy little head.

As the man walked, he periodically stopped, looked up, and chatted to the person standing next to him. Except, I couldn't see the person standing next to him. I'm sure that the man could and I'm sure that it was a fantastic conversation because he would pause every once in a while and smile. Whatever the invisible person in his mind was saying, it made him happy.

****************************************************************

She was supposed to be helping me wrap Christmas gifts. I sat in the midst of a pile of wrapping paper and gifts that Alexis had picked out, but her little fingers were doing nothing to aid me in the cutting and taping. Normally she's good for an assist or two, but on that night she was busy.

Alexis had pulled her little chair over to the Christmas tree and was rocking slowly in the chair. Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. All the while, her little mouth kept moving. It's the story of any 5-year-old's life. Always talking. ALWAYS.

Except, on this evening, every once in a while she would pause in her dialogue. After the pause, she would say something like, "You are so right!" or "Me, too!" or "Did you really?" and then she would smile.

Alexis was having a very animated conversation with a person who wasn't there. I tried to interrupt the conversation a time or two and was promptly SHOOOOOOOOSHED into silence.

Whatever the invisible person in her mind was saying, it made Alexis happy.

****************************************************************

As I listened to Alexis go on and on and on and on, I could think only of the old man and his similar conversation. We really do return to where we began, don't we?