Christmas began at Patchwork on the last Thursday of November when we held our annual Arts & Smarts Christmas Party. Our main room was filled with children, parents, and volunteers. There were special Christmas activities including fancy origami trees created with a visiting artist and Christmas carols sung with our friends from Aldersgate United Methodist Church. There was special party food and special door prizes for families. And there was the annual Christmas Store.
The Christmas Store is stocked with all kinds of potential presents for our Arts & Smarts participants’ families. These items were carefully chosen by our Junior Leaders (participants in grades 6-8) during a shopping trip funded by a grant from Youth Resources. During the fall semester, our Arts & Smarts participants earn tickets to shop in the Christmas Store. The more days of programming that they attended, the more presents they could choose, but they could not choose a gift for themselves! Christmas is about giving to others, after all.
Two of our university interns, Rita and Leslie, offer the following reflections on the joy and happiness that they observed at the Arts & Smarts Christmas Party and at Patchwork Central in general:
The Christmas Store in itself was an amazing and heartwarming experience. One of the Junior Leaders and I picked out gifts to wrap for her family members. She took her time on each present, making sure she took into account what they might need or really want. She especially took time for her sister. She explained to me how much her sister liked dolls and the color pink, and how she wanted the gift and the wrapping to be just right, as she could not wait to see the look on her sister’s face when she opened her present. She made sure to pick out pink wrapping paper and she let me teach her the best way to wrap a gift. I felt like I was really able to bond with her, and it was amazing to see her display of love and selflessness towards her family. The smile on her face will stick with me for years to come. The joy and friendship that filled the room was unlike any other experience I have had. I am so glad to have been a part of it.
I feel this place is very welcoming. I have never worked with a more accepting group of children. They make all newcomers feel welcome and a part of the group. For some you can even see their confidence grow as they lift each other up and work with each other to overcome any issues that may arise. These kids not only form relationships with each other, but help each other become better people. Many of them have gone through hardships of one type or another and still have love in their hearts and a deep caring for their friends and family. They have helped me grow as a person and there’s no telling the impact on those around them as they grow, but I know it will be good.