Cradles to Crayons

After shopping for disadvantaged children for two hours, Charlotte poses for a photo.

In this wonderful season of getting, we like to take a moment to give. Last week, on the day of Erev Hanukah, Charlotte and I took a huge box of her outgrown clothing, toys, and books to Cradles to Crayons, my current favorite Boston-area philanthropy. Cradles to Crayons has an extraordinary vision:

To ensure that “one day every child will have the essentials they need…to feel safe, warm, ready to learn and valued. Through the Giving Factory, we provide those essentials, as donated clothes, shoes, books and school supplies to homeless and low-income children. We also offer meaningful volunteer opportunities to hundreds of corporations and thousands of individuals and families each year.”

In some ways, it’s not such a big deal to donate used items. We do it whenever Charlotte outgrows clothing and toys. This year, Charlotte and I made a deal that she would purge at least 8 toys/books prior to Hanukah as she was certain to receive at least eight new toys/books to replace them. We had fun cleaning her room.

Then we made a date at The Giving Factory. We started by dropping our box at the loading dock. After that, we met Tams, the family volunteer coordinator. She gave us a brief tour of the warehouse, showing us how toys, clothing, books, baby gear are all tested (battery-operated items still work; tires are good; puzzles have all pieces, etc.).

And, then the fun really began! We got a sheet of paper with a child’s name, gender, age, and a list of needed items. With a shopping cart, we went up and down the aisles, gathering correctly-sized clothing, shoes, appropriate books and arts & crafts kits. As we completed each sheet, we went to the check-out table, filled a bag and handed it over to the clerk. We got a new sheet and began again.

We did this for two hours, filling bags for boys & girls, babies & toddlers. But..we couldn’t fulfill every need–there were no size 4/5 coats for girls, no hats or gloves for babies ages 0 to 24 months, no shoes for boys size 7/8. We filled bags for at least a dozen children, whose names I swore I’d remember–Angel, Miguel, Catherine, Kevin, and more. Charlotte declared it the “best day of vacation” and asked when we could go back.

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