This year I was determined to make it happen and I recently signed up the five of us to volunteer at an organization called MEND (Meeting Each Need) for their Christmas distribution which happened this past Sunday, a week before Christmas.
MEND's headquarters is located in the city of San Fernando and has a beautiful building in which it receives, distributes food, clothes and other necessities to the local needy families and the homeless.
MEND was started by a local man and his wife out of their garage which has grown tremendously, and it is going on over 20 years of service in the San Fernando Valley. They have only 25 employees and 80% of their workforce are volunteers! Amazing!
Their mission statement is inspiring...
We signed up for a 4.5 hour shift on Sunday, not truly a long shift in the big picture of everything that MEND does, but we hope we did our small part to help out. Jerry and I felt strongly in wanting the boys to open their eyes during the holidays to see just how lucky they truly are when there are others who need more than they do.
Our first job was to sort a a huge bin of canned goods into their appropriate boxes so they could store them accordingly to later make take home bags for the homeless.
We actually got this done fairly quickly as we were paired up with other volunteers that were there from Kennedy High School. So the next job Mikey and I got was to break down cardboard boxes, flatten them out and put them together for them, and clean up around the warehouse. They take these boxes and recycle them locally and the money they receive from recycling, they use to buy more food or supplies to support their services.
This was Mikey's favorite job. Mikey loves boxes because his imagination turns them into a million other things. He kept saying how cool this box and that box would be for this or that project, but he worked hard to help get this done.
The rest of our shift was spent helping with the distribution of gifts and food to those needy families that had applied for help earlier in the year. Families had started lining up outside earlier that morning and were let in a few at a time and led around by a volunteer helping them choose toys and other gifts for their families this Christmas and were also given 2 boxes of food for a holiday feast.
Mikey and I were given the front door post to help those families coming in and directing them to the appropriate spot inside, and holding the door open for those volunteers carrying out each family's boxes out to the curbside.
That's where Jerry, Christian and Danny were then scheduled to work. They were outside helping each family on the curbside to mark their boxes with their names and put their boxes into their cars. It was raining and it was hectic but I watched my boys work really hard at helping each family out.
Mikey even got into helping them out too. It felt really good to watch them having such a good time. You could see how good they felt as as well as the other volunteers did as they helped out with smiles and wished each and every family a Merry Christmas as they left.
After our shift was over, lunch was offered to the volunteers as they closed for an hour to get ready for the second shift of families coming in the afternoon. We thanked them for letting us help out and we assured them we'd be back next year, if not sooner and more often. It was a great experience.
We all left with high spirits as it had been a very special morning for all of us. We were all happy to have helped out such a great organization, but more importantly we knew that those families we saw were going to have a nice Christmas after all. Everybody deserves to have a special holiday.
If anything it helped the boys realize that Christmas is much more than about "what's in it for them." Its about giving and giving of one's time to help out someone else, and more importantly that its more about family and being together during this time. They loved that we had done this together as a family and I know that they will remember this experience for a long time.
If you're interested in helping out MEND with supplies or volunteer time, please see their website to find more information on how to get involved.
From my corner to yours...
May your family be together in all that you do this holiday season, and may we all do our part to MEND one family at a time.