And, since July, volunteers have been working on the Salvation Army Toy Drive. Nearly 200 Voyager residents participate in this event; according to one source, 95% of the volunteer labor for planning and execution of the event is Voyager folks. The toy drive has been staffed by Voyager volunteers for over 20 years.
Each year, money for the toys is donated by individuals and church groups and local organizations. Retailers provide discounts. Volunteers reconfigure a local warehouse for the event, putting up room dividers for a shopping area and a behind-the-scenes staging area. Booths are set up. Volunteers shop for the toys, sort and bundle them for appropriate age groups, put bicycles together, restock booths as gifts are selected, monitor the booths and the parking lot, escort clients through the shopping area, carry clients' shopping bags to their cars, and provide snacks, lunch and drinks for all the workers. Volunteer officers of the Tucson Police Department take care of security. And Spanish-speaking interpreters are available.
The toys are being distributed over a four-day period this week to the parents of 4,500 children. The Salvation Army screens applicants beforehand for the service; each parent must prove they have an address in Pima County and that they are the parent or legal guardian of all the children they will be shopping for.
Yesterday, we were two of the volunteers. As first timers, we were assigned the role of escorts for the moms and dads coming through to gather Christmas gifts for their children.
We showed up at 8:15 a.m. Stations have been set up for clients to walk through: a book station where a mom or dad chooses three books for each child;
an escort station where two volunteers join up with a parent to accompany them through the toy area (my husband Art is the fellow working the crossword puzzle as he awaits his next escort assignment);
age-appropriate tables where the parent selects a gift bundle or a single larger item for each child;
a station where the battery-operated toys receive their power source;
|"Two AAs and a 9-volt, please!"|
and a carry-out station where volunteers take the gift-filled bags to the clients' vehicles.
Another group of volunteers takes care of food and drink for the workers.
|Love the beef with noodles. And chocolate cake!|
Art and I knew a number of the other volunteers: people from the handbell group, from the current events discussion group, from last year's musical. It was good to be there with them. We are all very lucky to have what we need in our post-retirement years. The smiles on the faces of the clients as they left - with bags full of Christmas gifts for their children - were all we needed.
We both took naps, though, as soon as we got home!