Friends for the Holidays began as a simple desire to help people in need during the holiday season. Like many families, we found ourselves talking about finding ways to make a difference in our community for those who were less fortunate or in need of a helping hand; but it was time to start turning our words into actions.
HISTORY OF THE PROGRAM
In late fall 2014; we had a plan to send cards and ornaments to the brave men and women serving in the military who would not be home with their families for the holidays. We also wanted to include members of our community who were experiencing some difficult and challenging times including those who would be spending the Christmas season alone. We created a Facebook page explaining our mission and asked our friends and neighbors to spread the word. It was not long before we had requests coming in for friends helping friends and neighbors helping neighbors; and some reaching out to help those they didn’t know at all, but knew their story and wanted to help.
Santa’s Workshop was quickly filled with supplies and our ten very excited Christmas elves, ages 8-13, got to work. Between bites of their pasta, lots of glitter and holiday music playing in the background, their thoughtfulness, creativity and attention to detail was clearly shining through. It was heartwarming to see each handcrafted card and ornament made as if they were for their very best friend.
Friends for the Holidays and their grown-up helpers worked diligently from November 18th through December 22nd. Over 200 handmade cards and ornaments were created and sent out just in time for Christmas. We were also fortunate enough to participate in the Salvation Army Kettle campaign raising $250.92, the most money ever brought in during a four hour time block on a Wednesday evening.
Friends for the Holidays also made a trip to Evergreen Manor to bring some Christmas cheer to the residents, hand delivering cards and placing ornaments on the Evergreen Manor Christmas tree. It was difficult to tell who was happier, the residents or our team. We were even invited back every Wednesday to play Bingo! Our last trip was a visit to the Animal Welfare Society in Kennebunk with USA National Miss Maine, Abby Boissonneault to provide our furry friends with homemade toys for Christmas. We could not forget the four legged friends in our community looking for their forever homes; they needed our love and support, too. Lastly, Friends for the Holidays was able to collect enough food donations to provide a family an entire Christmas meal.
One of the highlights for this group was an unintended consequence that we could not have anticipated. A Secret Santa in our community reached out to us in an effort to find a family during the holiday season facing challenging situations. We were blessed to be able to connect this Secret Santa to a family we found to be a close match for what Secret Santa was looking for. Being able to connect two families anonymously was a very emotional experience for the giver, the receiver and Friends for the Holidays. An experience I will never forget.
Recently, Friends for the Holidays had the opportunity to share their story with the Saco Bay Center for Civic Engagement board; and even more exciting was that our program was accepted under their 501(c)3 umbrella to increase volunteerism in the community. We are thrilled to begin this endeavor and are looking forward to growing our pool of volunteers and connecting them to community organizations with volunteer opportunities. Although our history is not long, it has been valuable. We have met new people, learned new skills and have empowered our youngest citizens with a sense of community and accomplishment. To that end, we are hopeful that in some small way, our efforts have made a difference. A big thank you goes out to Justin Chenette and the Saco Bay Center for Civic Engagement’s board of directors for offering us this venue to continue our work. We are grateful, excited and very much looking forward to sharing our spirit of volunteerism to the community.
Director of Friends for the Holidays
P.O. Box 67
Saco, Maine 04072
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501(c)(3) Non-Profit Service Organization
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