While most of us may fuss over getting just the right gifts for our loved ones this time of year, some families need a little helping hand to bring the excitement of Christmas into their homes. Three years ago, Kara had an idea that brought the spirit of giving to dozens of people and provided gifts to about 25 families in Hoboken. Now with the help of Hoboken Grace, that idea has grown into an annual event that touches more and more lives every year.
When asked how she felt about Hoboken Grace’s involvement and how much bigger the event has become, Kara beamed, “It’s fantastic. It’s their event now, and I’m just happy to be a part of it!”
The Hoboken Christmas Exchange is about more than just presents. It is a family experience for everyone involved. The Hoboken Grace family gets to serve in fellowship, and local families get to spend time together and go home with more than just gifts and a family portrait. They leave with a greater sense of community.
Margarita, a single mother of four, has participated in the event for the past two years. She said she still has moments of awe and disbelief when she stops to think about it.
“I was born and raised in Hoboken. I’ve lived here my whole life. I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said. “It’s amazing! We get to spend some time together as a family surrounded by so much love, and it teaches the kids a beautiful lesson, too.”
This time of year can be very stressful, but Margarita said the whole experience is such a blessing for her and the children, and it makes this time of year a little easier. Families are even able to enjoy some cookies and hot chocolate while they wait to get family portraits taken.
“These are people that are part of the same community I live in. To give tangibly to someone who you know is your neighbor and whom you know is in need is incredibly meaningful,” said Kara. “If you are someone that is able to help that day in any way, whether it is giving some time, buying a gift, helping to wrap gifts, helping to organize and give out the presents, etc., it is a beautiful and tangible way to love, and we are designed to love.”
The growth of the event has multiplied the ways to become involved. You can sign up to “adopt” a child or a family, or you can sign up to be an “elf” and volunteer at the event itself. When you adopt, you will be paired up with a family or child in need and are provided the gender(s) and wish list of the individual(s) you’ve adopted.
For some, adopting a child or family is a way to teach a valuable lesson to their kids. The children are involved in the process of picking out the gifts and even wrapping them. Knowing that their gifts will be going to someone who may have little or nothing else under the tree Christmas morning, makes them appreciate what they receive that much more. Going to drop off the gifts, or being part of delivery day and seeing the happiness that receiving the gifts brings to families, is a great way to teach kids generosity and show how they are a part of something wonderful in their community.
Anthony, the impact director at Hoboken Grace, recalls a story of someone who decided to adopt a child and was matched with a little boy who wanted a bike. The young woman gifted the bike and recognized it one day when she was walking in Hoboken and saw the little boy riding it having a great time. The child of course had no idea, but in that moment she fully experienced his excitement and joy in the gift.
For those who may not be in a financial position to help, your time is very valuable as well. Volunteer as an “elf” on the day of the event and help us pull the whole thing off. The more, the merrier!
For more information on the Hoboken Christmas Exchange and how to adopt a family or be a volunteer, visit HobokenChristmas.com.