Santa’s elves had a little help in the Woodstock and Wonder Lake area last week as thousands of volunteers worked to make the Christmas season a little brighter for families in need.
Christmas Clearing House, the charity event for families and senior citizens living within Woodstock School District 200’s boundaries, held its annual packing and delivery days Dec. 13, 14 and 16. 1,106 households received packages of food — including turkeys, milk, bread, potatoes and other holiday staples — along with toys and books for kids. About 2,000 children were among those receiving gifts.
“It’s part of Christmas,” said Woodstock’s John Jones, a longtime Christmas Clearing House volunteer. “ … I’ve walked into an apartment where the only presents under the tree were the ones we were bringing them.”
Founded by local Girl Scouts in 1970, the annual charity event has long been orchestrated by the Rotary Club of Woodstock, which since 1972 has organized crowds of volunteers to collect donations, pack boxes of food and bags of toys and whisk the donations to homes throughout the area. This year’s event was based out of the former AmeriCast Concrete building at 14400 Washington St., where teams of volunteers buzzed around neat piles of gifts.
“[Packing] 1,100 food boxes in a night, 75 minutes? People ask, ‘How do you do that?’” Jones said. “It’s a community project.”
The Rotary Club sets a fundraising goal of $50,000 to cover expenses for Christmas Clearing House.
For many of the hundreds of people who volunteered, Christmas Clearing House has become an indispensable part of their holiday routines.
“My girls like to do it to help out and give back to the community,” Woodstock’s Steve Mungle said. He was at a thank-you breakfast at the Woodstock Moose Lodge, 406 Clay St., after delivering packages with his daughters, Norah and Lilah Mungle. Volunteering for Christmas Clearing House has become an annual tradition for the family, he said.
“I just like giving back for people who are in need,” said 13-year-old Norah. “I like seeing the people be happy when they get the stuff we bring.”
Doug Kaping, a Woodstock High School student, was in his second year volunteering at the event.
“It’s kind of fun, helping people and bringing things to people who need it,” Kaping said. He wants to continue volunteering each year, he added. “You’re walking into a house and knowing you’re bringing Christmas.”