I don’t remember specifics of many Christmas mornings, but there’s one as a teenager that I remember vividly. My brothers and I ran upstairs in anticipation of all the loot awaiting us in the living room and there were no new presents under the tree. My mom said, “Get dressed. We’re going out.” We drove to the local “Soup Kitchen” and were immediately put to work serving breakfast to the homeless and less fortunate in our community. After spending the morning seeing family after family who had so little, it was very easy to list all of my blessings. When we arrived home and had our actual Christmas (Santa hid the presents in my mom’s room until we returned) I remember the feeling being very different. Each present seemed like a luxury – WAY more than I needed. Though I don’t remember a single Christmas gift I got that year, this memory was the best gift my mother could have given me.
That wasn’t the first time my mother taught us about the spirit of giving during the holidays. As a kid, at the beginning of December, my mother got us together as a family and we talked about what we were going to GIVE this Christmas and not what we were going to GET. We’d pick a family to do a service for or we’d do a “Sub for Santa” for a less fortunate family in our neighborhood.
This is a tradition that I treasure and have tried to instill in my young family. Though our contributions may be meager, it’s a nice tradition to brighten someone else’s holiday.
Last year I heard about Project Teddy Bear from one of Startup Princess’ partners: Bank of American Fork. I thought that would be fun thing to do with my then not-quite-2 year old. We had three stuffed animals that he had received as gifts that were sitting in a box (with the tags still on) and had never been played with. And that was a start of our annual tradition with Project Teddy Bear. I told him about little boys and girls who didn’t have very much and that they would love a new toy. He helped me carry them in and set them down in the impressive pile and then looked at the pile and picked up a new one to take home. I tried to explain that this wasn’t a trade and, luckily, it went over pretty well. We said, “Bye, bye bears.” And went home. It took all of about 20 minutes including driving time.
Project Teddy Bear is a community service project sponsored by Bank of American Fork. Customers, employees and community members donate teddy bears and other stuffed animals that are given to the Utah Valley Family Support & Treatment Center in Orem, the Salt Lake County Family Support Center (locations in Midvale, Taylorsville, West Valley City and Sugarhouse) and the House of Hope in Salt Lake City, Provo and Ogden. Last year, Bank of American Fork collected an all-time high of 7,463 stuffed animals and their goal for 2010 is 8,000.
Check out this cool time lapse video of last year’s donations Bank of American Fork Project Teddy Bear
I know I’m not alone in having chartible holiday traditions. There are many families who at the beginning of every December help their children inventory toys and select 2 or 3 items to donate to Salvation Army, Goodwill or Deseret Industries. This is also a great tradition of making way for new presents and also giving to those whose budgets may be tight.
I also know of other businesses that host fun projects during the holidays for employees, customers or community members like Sub for Santa. Utah based, woman owned company, Stampin Up! decided to do away with sending holiday cards to their demonstrators and took the money and donated it to the Ronald McDonald House.
However you do it in your business or in your family, I’d love to hear about your ideas for charitable holiday traditions or hear about other company’s projects, like Project Teddy Bear that are spreading holiday cheer this season.