I knew I wanted to get involved in this Welcome Box idea, but I wasn’t sure where to start. Like most of you, I had a decent stockpile of toothpaste, granola bars, and crayons, but I wanted to go big. I had a big tower of Welcome Boxes in mind.
This was not exactly in our budget for the month. Hmmm. What to do? Well, I just did what I do anytime I am stumped. I called on my friends and family. I sent out a quick email, announcing a Welcome Box Party at my house.
The general idea was this: Bring whatever you have from the list to contribute! Bring your kids! I will feed you. We will fill boxes. The kids will run wild. Everyone will have a great time.
People started responding right away. Those who couldn’t make it dropped off items or money. Those who could, showed up at my doorstep yesterday morning with kids in tow, bags in arms. There were 8 women and 16 kids.
I set up three areas:
- One table with food and drinks, to keep the troops happy.
- One table with the essential items from the Welcome Box list.
- One table with the fun filler items from the list (7 go in each box).
As guests arrived, we ate and talked. People unloaded their items on the two tables. When everyone showed up, we got to work.
Each person chose a specific gender and age range, grabbed a box, and filled it with appropriate items. I printed off several copies of packing lists so everyone could stay on track.
We attached notes to the inside of the lid and labels to the outside of the box. Pens, paper, scissors, and tape were all helpful to have handy.
I think next time we’ll have a couple note-writers and box-checkers at the end to streamline the process. We even talked about focusing on one specific age group (such as the kids 12 and older, as there is a great need for this age range and their interests are much different from the younger kids) so we could collect more items.
With 16 of our own little ones running around, I honestly expected we would deal with many meltdowns and repeated reminders of, “Don’t touch that! Don’t take that! This isn’t for you!” Shows what I know. The younger kids got busy with Legos, and the older kids (4-9) blew me away with their focus on the task at hand. Seriously, many of them just jumped in, filling boxes with their moms.
They got it. After all, who better understands what kids like? They were motivated and excited, and I was incredibly humbled to watch this unexpected act of kindness: kids helping other kids. If you are a teacher, Welcome Boxes would make a great classroom project.
We filled boxes until we started running low on the principal items. One friend (the only pregnant one, no less!) offered to run to the store for more items. We double checked all the boxes and filled in some gaps. All in all, our Welcome Box group completely filled 36 boxes!
There were quite a few items left over (notice that stack of crayons?) which I will just hang on to for next time. We also agreed to continue collecting items, keeping our eyes open during our normal shopping trips. One friend even grabbed a list to keep in her purse. Great idea! I am planning to throw another party in October. By then we’ll be a well-oiled machine.
As I was adding a few missing items this morning, I came across this note a friend had attached to the inside of one of the box lids. It brought tears to my eyes, as I thought of the young girl who would open that box as she sat in the DHS office, world turned upside down. A small box can make a big difference.
From this experience I was reminded of two things:
- I know some incredibly generous women; I am so thankful they are willing to show up at just the right time.
- When we come together, we can accomplish so much more than we can alone.
If the idea of filling a box(es) on your own is too overwhelming, consider getting a group involved! The need is ongoing, so boxes can be collected and donated at any time. If you would like more information or the official Welcome Box booklet sent your way, simply leave a comment and we’ll make sure Jillana Goble, the Welcome Box Coordinator, gets your request.
You can check out this detailed Welcome Box post, complete with drop-off locations. The deadline is next Thursday, September 6!
Thanks again for your generous support of these kids entering foster care!
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