Three things stand out in my mind about this year's St. Peter Church Giving Tree experience.
I should explain that each year, St. Peter quietly and inauspiciously asks church members to do a couple of things: take a paper ornament or two from the small artificial tree in the narthex, then puchase the item that's written on it.
As I've written in previous articles, the Giving Tree is the best part of Christmas. It's people coming together, donating time and treasure, to make sure other people who are less fortunate have something under their tree on Christmas day.
Gifts are donated to area social service agencies—Hesed House, Provena Geneva Care Center, Elgin Mental Health Center, Fox Valley Pregnancy Center, Catholic Charities, VNA of Fox Valley—and delivered by volunteers directly to their doors.
We used to do some of the deliveries on Sunday, after the sorting. For the past couple years, we've made the deliveries on Monday.
It seems to me that giving this year was up—and that's a good thing. We had almost 40 of these giant, heavy-duty, 42-gallon bags packed to the brim with clothes, baby necessities, toys and games, toiletries, watches and miscellaneous gifts. They get heavy, those heavy-duty bags, and I was a little worried about the lifting we were about to do on Monday.
Enter Mike and Tom, two college students home for the holidays. They called and asked if they could help, and they were Godsends with the capital G. That's the first of my trifecta of 2012 Giving Tree memories—that they would give up the better part of their day to deliver gifts and load vehicles, and then ask if there was more they could do to help.
We drove a good portion of those bags in a van and two cars to Hesed House in Aurora. It was the same day, it turns out, that the food pantry at Hesed House is dispensing its gifts, as well.
As we made the turn onto River Street in Aurora, I wondered if there might be an accident up ahead. I could see police vehicles directing traffic, and there was a line of cars along the side of the road that was at least four blocks long—I'm not exaggerating.
All of these cars were in line to get to the food pantry.
As we arrived at Hesed House, more folks were getting off what I think was the Pace bus, walking toward the food pantry. If you ever doubt that there's poverty in the suburbs or people in need, I recommend going to Hesed House and seeing for yourself. That seemingly endless line is the second thing I'll remember about this year's Giving Tree.
The third is the greeting we received when we arrived at Hesed House. We pulled the van around, as we always do, and started unloading. And the Hesed House employee or volunteer was so gracious and grateful and full of joy. "We can always count on St. Peter's," he said.
I know that every church or synagogue or mosque in our area does similar volunteer efforts. And, as I've said before, there are many Giving Trees here in Geneva.
What I'll remember from 2012 is that there's a need for every one of them.