Boston’s Christmas in the City runs non-denominational holiday events for children and families experiencing homelessness and poverty, and throughout the year is always on the lookout for ways to help those in need. Founded in 1989, Christmas in the City is a 100% volunteer organization with a strong ethos of “community caring for community.”
It’s December 1988. Jake and Sparky Kennedy’s family’s growing. The stockings are hung by the chimney with care – and stuffed. The tree is ringed with more toys and gifts than the kids will ever use. While the house is filled with joy, Jake and Sparky feel something’s missing: how to make sure their kids can experience not only the joy of receiving gifts, but the spirit of the season: kindness, goodwill, sharing with others. As Jake puts it, “showing the kids that it wasn’t just all about them”.
It’s December 1989, and a new family tradition begins. With friends, co-workers, and clients of Kennedy Brothers Physical Therapy volunteering their time and donating gifts and money, Christmas in the City is born. That first year, 165 mothers and children from Boston homeless shelters are guests at a party at Boston City Hall, complete with festive decorations, games, a holiday meal and a gift for each child that the child had asked Santa to deliver.
Since that first party, Christmas in the City has grown. Today, the party – a truly magical experience – hosts thousands of children (and their parents) from Boston-area homeless shelters. The day after the party, we run Monday Mania, at which thousands of toys and gifts are distributed to families who aren’t experiencing but live on the edge of poverty.
It’s Christmas in the City throughout the year. In 1995, we initiated a family assistance program, providing services to families transitioning from shelter living to their own homes and providing support to those in need. The Village Project offers tuition assistance. At Thanksgiving, we distribute food to families in need. Halloween in the City lets inner-city kids trick-or-treat in their own neighborhood. Each fall, we run a job fair at Roxbury Community College. Sadly, in 2020, we have had to cancel most of our events. We will be working with a number of smaller shelters to provide them with some holiday cheer, but our scope has been pared way back due to COVID. But we’re not going anywhere, and there’s plenty more to come…
In everything we do, Christmas in the City has never lost sight of its core value, the spirit of the season: kindness, goodwill and caring for our neighbors.
And we do 100% of everything with volunteers, a roster 2,500+ strong, including many of the kids who attended a party and come back to CITC as volunteers, and many volunteers who’ve been with us since way back in 1989. All four Kennedy children, whose 1988 Christmas inspired Jake and Sparky to start Christmas in the City, have volunteered over the years. And in 2018, Chip Kennedy branched out and began Christmas in the City, New York.
Having volunteered for CITC for 25 years, I can say that the day of the party is the best day of the year. It brings so much joy to families throughout Boston who are living in temporary housing.