Thursday, December 27, 2012

26th Annual Holiday Party: From the Elves' Perspective

“I just like to smile! Smiling's my favorite.” –Will Ferrell as Buddy in Elf

Santa's Red Cross elves: Lydia Hignite, Sara Clifton and Colleen Stufflebeam work to spread holiday cheer at the 26th Annual Holiday Party

Monday, Dec. 17 Santa took a break from his sleigh and instead rode a fire truck downtown to the American Red Cross building on East Chestnut Street. Once he and Mrs. Claus had made their big entrance and settled into their places of honor, each in a chair sturdy enough to hold Old St. Nick and a little one on each knee, the couple proceeded in turn to greet each child and give him or her a small bag of toys. These were children who had lost some or all of their belongings to fire in the past year.

Santa must have good knees, because he gave 113 children toys that night. More than 35 Red Cross volunteers, alongside the firefighters of Louisville Professional Firefighters Union Local 345, donated their time to make the event a success, serving refreshments and overseeing crafts and games.

Of this group, four Red Cross staff members served as Santa’s trusty elves. The elves took seriously their role of  maintaining a neat line of children and families progressing toward Santa amidst the hubbub and excitement, chit chatting with those waiting in line, and smiling. There was a lot of smiling. Here, the elves share some highlights of the night:

“Spreading holiday cheer is not a tough job, especially when you have elf ears and your clothes jingle everywhere you go. I loved high-fiving little hands covered in candy cane stickiness and watching faces light up in awe with the first sight of Santa Claus. But most of all, I enjoyed watching families smile and laugh and play in spite of the difficult circumstances they’ve faced over the last year. Everyone should have the opportunity to share the wonder and joy of the holiday season with a child. There is a lot of healing there for elves, adults and children alike.”

-Rebekah Farley, Volunteer Specialist

“It was a memorable experience to see the children receive the presents firsthand, especially since Santa keeps us in the toy shop for most of the holiday season. I know this party was directed towards the kids, but the parents enjoyed it just as much. The evening was full of joyful songs, ear-to-ear smiles, and full belly laughs!”

-Colleen Stufflebeam, Community Resiliency Specialist

“The children at the American Red Cross party got a true tour of Santa’s workshop.  As an elf I got to help with presents but I also got to chase the children around and compliment their face paint.  We got to see the true blessings of our hard work!  The older I’ve gotten the more I’ve realized that finding presents under the tree is pretty cool, but helping Santa makes for the best Christmas imaginable!”

-Sara Clifton, Community Resiliency Specialist

“Right before each kid was about to see Santa, some were over-the-moon excited, jumping up and down, and some of the older kids were playing it cool. They probably felt they were a little old to be meeting Santa, but you could tell that they were actually secretly excited and happy to be there. And some of the really little ones were a little shy to meet him, but they had fun too. The kids jumping up and down had the biggest smiles on their faces I have ever seen. Their enthusiasm was infectious.”

-Lydia Hignite, Community Resiliency Specialist

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Bit of Happy News

The Red Cross workforce—employees and volunteers included—is made up of humanitarians, people who want to improve the lives of others. Over the past weekend, I saw an outpouring of Humanitarianism highlighted by Friday’s tragic school shooting in Connecticut. While some people don’t show it as often as others, it was a reminder that, overall, most people want to do good and help others.

In just the past month, the Louisville Area Chapter has had the pleasure of working with thousands of these “everyday” humanitarians. Schools, businesses, and other community organizations in Kentucky and Southern Indiana helped sign 42,000 cards for the 2013 Holiday Mail for Heroes Campaigns. The cards included thank you’s, well wishes, and even plain hellos to let military members, their families and veterans know someone was thinking of them during the holidays.

On December 13th, 14 students graduated from the Red Cross Nurse Aide Training (NAT) program. A few of them shared stories on why they chose to pursue a nursing career. NAT student Cindy King said that while the workdays might be long, she believes being a nurse is the most rewarding job a person can have. “During my training, I’ve seen that just a smile, a drink, or the smallest conversation will brighten someone’s day,” Cindy said during the graduation ceremony.

On the 17th, we hosted our annual Holiday Party for kids affected by home fires. The kids had a blast sitting on Santa’s lap, getting their faces painted and participating in fun arts and crafts. Our partners with the Louisville Firefighters Union Local 345 stood by quietly, observing the children react to their gifts. While shopping for toys earlier this month, the cost surpassed the allocated budget. Union members pooled money out of their own pockets to help cover the excess.

These acts of kindness give me that warm, fuzzy feeling even when I’m having a bah humbug kind of day. I hope the stories and photos help brighten your day, too.