On the outside, the church looked empty. Inside, it was a buzzing hive of activity.

Men and women formed makeshift assembly lines, popping Barbie dolls and teddy bears and Ninja Turtle pajamas into boxes. Others filled paper sacks with canned yams and string beans, boxes of Stovetop stuffing, and mesh bags full of potatoes. Frozen turkeys were added later.

When I was in high school, my best friend and I always volunteered to help.

Sometimes we would fill those bags and boxes with toys and food. We’d base the contents on lists that described the needs of the families we were “shopping” for. (This family has a baby – don’t forget the formula and diapers. This family has a wheat allergy – so leave out the bread. This family has a little boy – make sure you include a monster truck.)

Other times, we’d stand at the door, gathering stuffed animals and board games, underwear and socks, canned cranberry sauce and carrots from red-nosed, bundled-up donors, and then distribute them to the people working inside.

Once filled, the bags and boxes would be handed off to other volunteers, who’d swoop them off to the Salvation Army to be picked up by the families in need.

There’s so much to be thankful for around the holidays. And I loved those days of helping to make Christmas a little merrier for people going through a rough time.

[Ed. Note: What’s your favorite holiday tradition? Let us know right here.]

Comment on this article