In the third week of December, the Trinity Church sanctuary transforms into a wonderland of holiday gifts.
The Hope’s Corner Holiday Sharing Event, run by Mountain View-based nonprofit Hope’s Corner, is the organization’s way to bring more joy to the holidays by collecting and disbursing gifts to families who may not be able to afford them.
According to Hope’s Corner president Chris Ito, the sanctuary at 748 Mercy St. looks like “Santa’s workshop” that week.
“It’s like an explosion of toys,” he said.
In addition to toys, items displayed on the tables include warm clothing, socks, nonperishable food, books, stocking stuffers and gift cards. As the families file in, they are typically paired with a Hope’s Corner volunteer; together, they choose three gifts for the family to bring home.
“Whether it’s giving them a stuffed animal or a book or a stocking stuffer or a toy, we try to provide all of those things, and it gives the parents a chance to actually feel like they’re shopping for their kids,” Ito said.
Alice Cota, head of volunteers, added that the concept of letting parents shop for their kids suits the intrinsic parental need to provide for their children.
“They did provide the gift for their child, because it was their time and effort in securing it,” Cota said. “It is not from Hope’s Corner; it’s from their parents. Or Santa – if they want to say it’s from Santa.”
Last year, Ito said the organization served more than 200 families and gave away more than 2,000 toys to 700 youth.
“If there’s a need, we do whatever we can to meet it,” Ito said of the nonprofit’s goal. “I think the holiday giving event is a prime example of that.”
Ito added that “parents walk out with sacks – literally sacks of toys and clothes. … You just feel like: There’s going to be a child at the other end of that, who’s going to have a nice Christmas.”
Collective action bursts ‘bubble’
Hope’s Corner board member Leslie Carmichael said her favorite aspect of the event is “people coming together to make something happen that really can’t be done by an individual.”
“It takes collective action – it takes collective effort to bring some joy to a lot of people’s holiday,” she said.
Ito echoed the sentiment.
“It’s nice to see that people still care, and they do want to help each other – and we just see it from start to finish,” he said.
Carmichael added that she not only noticed the gratitude from the families who came for gifts, but also saw the event positively impacting the volunteers who were part of the effort.
“It opens people’s eyes to (how) there is such a broad spectrum of economic situations in our area,” she said. “It helps people see beyond their bubble.”
Cota added that “hopefully, it will stick with some of the volunteers that, ‘Hey, we shouldn’t just do this during the holidays; hey, maybe we should continue giving back.’”
Ito noted that Hope’s Corner stands out in letting young children engage in volunteering. The organization previously allowed children as young as age 5 to volunteer, but the pandemic halted that for safety purposes; the minimum age is now 16. Ito looks forward to the day when young children will once again be able to help out.
“When (the kids) also start participating in events like the holiday giving event as volunteers and understand that there are kids even in our own community that don’t have a single toy, it starts building the empathy within them as well,” he said.
Outside of the holiday season, Hope’s Corner is known for its yearlong food, shower and laundry services. The organi-zation typically offers free breakfasts and bagged lunches Wednesday and Saturday mornings, and coffee and snacks Monday mornings. Its laundry and shower services are available Monday and Wednesday mornings, and 8:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Saturdays.
“There’s a basic need when it comes to serving somebody food and providing showers and laundry that I think has to do with basic human needs and treating people with dignity,” Ito said. “But I would say that the holiday event is our opportunity – when we see the families that come in – that we have a feeling that we’re going beyond the basics, to something that’s so core to any parent: that they just want to do the best for their kids.”
For more information on how to donate gifts or sign up to pick out gifts at the Hope’s Corner Holiday Sharing Event, visit hopes-corner.org.
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