|Optimists Create Santa at the Station
December 9, 2013
Optimist Leland Yates was a Trailways/Greyhound bus driver and noticed many of the children traveling on buses over the holidays had very little or nothing for Christmas. This seemed like the perfect opportunity for Members of the Evening Optimist Club of Albuquerque, New Mexico to bring some cheer to these kids spending time in an often dismal environment.
In Albuquerque, there is a station served by Amtrak, Greyhound and other smaller bus lines. The Club has provided Christmas gifts for children riding the buses and trains for the past three holidays. Members begin when the first bus or train arrives after 9:00 am on Christmas Eve and distribute gifts until the last bus or train arrives on Christmas day or whenever all of the gifts are given out.
Members of the Club have established an excellent rapport with the station management. They provide the Club with a room, where they can decorate, hang their Optimist sign and stage the gift bags.
Between 140 and 150 gift bags containing toys, games, coloring books and comics are passed out to children. Members avoid distributing items that would disturb other passengers, such as musical toys or water guns. The bags are made to be gender and age range specific to ensure the gifts are appropriate and will be enjoyed by the children who receive them.
The budget set for the purchase of gifts is approximately $400 a year. However the fund is increased greatly by outside donations, all of which have been unsolicited. Many friends choose to donate gifts in lieu of money. Every year, members of the community ask to participate in the event. The Club usually has more volunteers than they have slots to fill.
“I encourage Club Members to bring their own kids and grandkids to participate. This will show them that you care and they will experience the emotional rewards of helping those less fortunate,” said Leland. “Some Members may balk at leaving their family and comfortable setting to go to the bus station, but what better gift can you give your child or grandchild than to have them participate with you in doing something this good.”
The first year of the project, the local newspaper printed an article with photos. Every year, the Club has received coverage from one or two of the three local television stations. In each case, all that was required was a phone call from a Club Member.
This project provides happiness, goodwill and awareness that there are people who care. It received recognition as the 2011-2012 Best Film CPA project, as well as the Best Youth Activity.
The Club received $500 for each honor and was recognized on stage at the 2013 International Convention.
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