The holidays can be a difficult time of year, especially for our neighbors who are elderly or isolated. This past December, JFS launched a new program – Lights to Love – to help brighten the season for those whose holidays might be lonely or cold.
JFS staff collected wish lists from clients across the agency in need of a little extra holiday warmth and light. Paper ‘flames’ with the wish lists hung from the Lights of Love display in the Weinstein JCC for people to read, take and shop for, perhaps while picking up Hanukkah gifts for their own friends and families. Many clients wanted essential things like winter clothes, personal care items and grocery store gift cards.
While we hoped Lights of Love’s first year would be a success, JFS staff was floored by the extraordinary response: every single flame was picked and returned! Thanks to so many generous, compassionate community members, 50 people of all ages received gifts, visits and a small reminder that they weren’t alone during the holidays.
But, before the gifts could be delivered, they needed to be wrapped! JFS staff, volunteers and even a client’s family member who happened to be in the office pitched in for a “wrapping party” in the JFS conference room. With a roaring fireplace video on the television, the small team spent an afternoon wrapping presents and marveling at the donors’ generosity.
JFS staff from every department hand-delivered gifts to their recipients. Staff members brought not only the physical gifts from the Lights of Love donors, but also their own gift of a visit, taking time with their clients to have a cup of coffee or a chat at the kitchen table.
Teresa Baldwin, JFS’ Director of Human Resources and Volunteer Services and the spark behind Lights of Love, spent her Christmas day off delivering the last few gifts with her daughter, Abbie. As they went from home to home, almost everyone they visited was alone and just as excited by the company as the gifts.
One elderly client had just moved into a new apartment, and her wish list included dishes and a floor mat. When she opened her door to see Teresa and Abbie struggling to carry three giant bags of home goods to get her settled in, she burst into tears. As Teresa and Abbie left to make their next delivery, she said, “Thank you for thinking of me today.”
Teresa remembered, “We decided to deliver gifts to one particular lady last, since I knew it would be a long visit. She’s not as mobile as she used to be, so she gets lonely. We stayed for more than an hour and had a lovely time!”
JFS is profoundly grateful for everyone who participated in the first Lights of Love, whether you bought gifts for a neighbor in need, gave your time to wrap or spread the word about the program. You brought warmth and joy to 50 people who might otherwise have felt forgotten during the holidays. We are especially thankful to the Weinstein JCC for hosting the display. Be sure to keep an eye out for Lights of Love again next holiday season!