This past Friday, my staff and I spent the day at the Middlesex & Worcester district office in Marlborough, volunteering for the local Holiday Helper program. We arrived at the office prepared to sort toys — a task that seemed, when it was first assigned to us, rather straightforward and quick, but that ended up being a massive project.
Massive, because of the overwhelming generosity shown by Marlborough residents eager to give back to those less fortunate in their community. There were multiple truckloads of donated dolls, games, trucks, clothing and other gifts that needed to be unloaded, unpacked, and sorted into piles before being packaged up for children in the community who otherwise might not have presents this season. When I entered the room where all of these toys were being stored, there were literally thousands of toys ready to be sorted for needy children in the Marlborough area.
The work my staff and I did that day was just a small part of a much larger community-wide operation that takes place every year, from identifying families in need to processing applications, soliciting donations, and distributing gifts to area children. We were honored to be a part of it, and I am so proud that my District Director, Peggy Ayres is one of the primary organizers of the effort every year.
The Marlborough Holiday Helper program began in December of 1988, when a local family, having suffered through a year of illness, job layoffs, and ultimately eviction, came to the Department of Human Services for help paying their rent. Even after receiving money from the Mayor’s Charity Relief Fund, it became apparent that the parents would not be able to provide Christmas presents for their three children. The Human Services Department reached out to the community to donate gifts, and was met with extraordinary generosity. The Holiday Helper Program was born to ensure that all children in the community would receive a gift during the holiday season.
Rosalind Baker, director of Marlborough’s Human Services Department, and Peggy from our office currently run the Holiday Helper program, processing applications from families who otherwise would not have gifts for their children during the holidays.
It’s a huge job, and they do amazing work. Last year the program received 500 applications, and this year many more are expected. No applications are denied, and although children may not receive every item on their wish list, the Holiday Helper program tries to ensure they receive at least one item a child specifically requests.
Spending Friday unpacking waist-high boxes of gifts, and filling bags for children with trucks, mittens and books soon to be tucked under Christmas trees and given during Hanukah this week, I was proud to represent a community that fosters such selfless kindness. The Holiday Helper program, as well as all of the many other similar holiday programs and food banks throughout the Middlesex & Worcester District, are such a success thanks to the strong community support they receive each year.
Despite all of the work put in by dozens of volunteers, including myself and my staff last week, there is so much work left to be done to make sure that every area needy child has a memorable holiday. If you have a day or even a few hours to help out, please contact Peggy at (508) 786-3040 or email her at Margaret.Ayers@state.ma.us for information on sponsoring a child or helping with the distribution process.
Wishing everyone a safe, happy Holiday Season!
P.S. On another charity note, this past Monday I had the pleasure of being at the ribbon cutting of a new Marlborough-based program of Employment Options, called Furnishing Options, that collects surplus furniture and other household goods and provides them to low-income individuals and families to furnish their homes. If you or your family have household goods to donate, or would like to help support the program, please contact Diane Ring, Executive Director, at (508) 485-5051 extension 245, or visit www.employmentoptions.org/FurnishingOptions.