I had heard a lot about, and seen photos of, the Anna House holiday party at which the children of the backstretch workers get to pick out gifts for their families, but nothing prepared me for the sight that greeted me when I showed up at my appointed hour of 12:30 on December 8th.
The lobby of Anna House was filled with families and children, signing in with volunteers and making lists of the people for whom they needed to get presents; the party was supposed to start at 1:00, but by the time I arrived, the lobby was so full that the good folks at Anna House decided to get things rolling. I brought a camera with me, but never had a chance to take a single picture; the ones you see here were taken by Anna House staff.
The event took place in two rooms; in the first, the Lael Stables activity room, donated gifts were laid out and stacked high on dozens of tables. Those of you who donated to the Marines’ Toys for Tots Drive at Aqueduct in early December would have seen your gifts on display here; various area merchants donated gift certificates and other gifts; and individuals went shopping to select hats, gloves, scarves, toiletries, and clothing for the children to give.
The other room, the Charlotte Weber playroom, was the wrapping room; after selecting gifts, the children brought them here, so that volunteers could tag and fill gift bags. Volunteers escorted the children through both rooms while parents and caregivers waited in the lobby, so that the Christmas secrets would remain that way, placed under the tree.
We worked non-stop from 12:30 to 4:00, and the incredibly full room that I entered early in the day was depleted by 4:00, having provided gifts to more than 300 families. There’s no question that these donations will make a difference to these families on Christmas morning, and give the children the joy of seeing their parents open the gifts that they selected.
If you’re interested in donating to Anna House, which provides low-cost child care to the children of the backstretch workers, 365 days a year, you can go to their website for more information.