What exactly does Christmas in the City do?
The purpose of Christmas in the City is to alleviate the impact of poverty and homelessness on Boston-area families, and to work towards the goal of eliminating homelessness. In addition to our annual holiday party, which each year hosts thousands of guests, we distribute gifts to thousands of other families in need of assistance during the holiday season. We provide Thanksgiving food baskets to families who need help with putting a traditional Thanksgiving meal on the table. In 2018, we ran the first Halloween in the City, making a space where inner-city kids could safely trick-or-treat in their own neighborhood. Througout the year, our Helping Families program offers advice and assistance to families transitioning from shelters to their own housing. Each fall, we run the annual Christmas in the City Job Fair. The Village Project is focused on education.
So, we do lots of things, and are always looking to add new events and programs to our roster.
How does Christmas in the City work?
Christmas in the City is an all-volunteer organization. There is no paid staff. We’re able to do what we do because thousdands of folks volunteer their time, talent and treasure to help our neighbors. Our volunteers range in age from kids in elementary schools to retirees. We all do what our circumstances allow, some of us giving an hour or two of our time or a donation of a toy or a small check, others making substantial commitments of time and money.
We have found that by pulling together and doing our best, good things happen.
How is Christmas in the City different from ‘Toys for Tots’ & other organizations that collect/distribute holiday gifts?
First off, we do more than just give out toys around the holiday. (Check out “What exactly does Christmas in the City do?” above.) But toys are an important part of Christmas in the City, so we’ll answer that question in terms of the party that we run. At the Christmas in the City party – which each year hosts thousands of those experiencing homelessness – our focus is on engagine our neighbors our community – both guests and volunteers – in a magical moment, which brings out the best in all of us and becomes a memory we can share. At the party, each child receives a gift that they’ve specifically asked for. The gift is wrapped with a card personalizing it for the child. The gift is presented to each child at a party which is far beyond their wildest dreams.
After being greeted at the door by their favorite cartoon characters, the children are lavished with a catered lunch, a stage show, petting zoo, hands-on exhibits from local museums, carnival rides, clowns, athletes from local pro teams, visits with Santa. Hair dressers, barbers and estheticians pamper both moms and kids. Dentists clean teeth. All this happens in a safe, festive environment. For most of our guests, the Christmas in the City party is The Best Day of the Year.
More than simply giving a gift, we attempt to connect with the family and child in a way that they know their neighbors care for them. And having developed relationships with organizations sheltering homeless families, Christmas in the City is able to offer support and guidance to families as they transition from shelters to their own homes.
Where can I drop toys off? (Or, what is a satellite location?)
CITC receives thousands of toy donations from organizations and individuals. Many are dropped off at Kennedy Brothers’ Physical Therapy office in Downtown Crossing, where by mid-December they’re stacked to the ceiling. While this is an amazing sight, everyone can’t get into Boston to drop their donations off PLUS , even if they could, we’d run out of space. So we also use a number of satellite drop-off locations.
In addition to accepting toy donations on our behalf, satellites may also get involved with raising funds, taking care of the toy requests for a specific shelter, handling administrative tasks, or other volunteer responsibilities. Each satellite group receives assistance, instructions, and contact with CITC organizers to ensure the process goes smoothly and satisfyingly for all concerned. If your organization is interested in becoming a Christmas in the City satellite, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
What types of toys are you looking for, and do you accept used toys?
Most of our “most wanted” toys are also on our Amazon list. Toys ordered here can be sent directly to Kennedy Brother PT.
As for used toys, the answer is “No.” We do accept non-toy items and collectibles that can serve as stocking stuffers if they are “good as new” condition.
How can I volunteer?
For holiday-related events, the volunteer needs are posted in mid-October. Opportunities go fast! Here’s the link to the Volunteer section of Get Involved.
We’re always looking for year-round volunteers to help keep the organization going. Check out the Get Involved section to see what our current needs are there.
How can I attend the Christmas in the City holiday party as a guest?
Only those currently experienging homelessness in the Boston metropolitan area are eligible to attend the annual holiday party. All guest registrations are done through the shelters. Check with your shelter manager to see if your shelter participates in Christmas in the City. If not, have them contact email@example.com to make arrangements.
What help around the holidays do you offer those in need but not experiencing homelessness?
For those in the Boston area who are in need but not currently experiencing homelessness, we run Monday Mania. This is an event where families in need can “shop” for free, picking up toys and other items for their children. You must pre-register for this event. Registration occurs in early December (times, dates, location will be posted on the website), and requires proof of need (birth certificates and Mass Health cards, etc.).
What is Winter Wonderland?
Winter Wonderland, held the Saturday before the Christmas in the City holiday party in late December, is an indoor amusement park, including a number of rides, craft activities, carolers, etc. This is a PAID FUNDRAISER, through which we raise money to support our party and other initiatives. Tickets go on sale in early December. Check here for more information.