Celebrating Christmas with our Kids in the Midst of COVID-19:
As the Director of Education, one of my favorite parts of my job is Christmas shopping with our kids. Every year, our Read to Lead students earn points for attendance, participation, grades, good choices, and growth. These points turn into dollars at Christmas time and we transport all of the kids to Walmart and pair them with a shopping partner (a staff member or volunteer). The shopping pair receives a gift card to make purchases of the students’ choosing.
This year, we recognized that transporting all of our students to shop at Walmart before Christmas was simply not responsible in the midst of COVID-19. So this year, we pivoted. We offered volunteers three options: 1. Meet up with the Beth staff at Walmart in person (with masks and social distancing requirements) shop, and leave your purchases with us, 2. Pick up your student’s gift card and wish list, shop on your own, and return your purchases to the Beth, or 3. Shop virtually with an emailed wishlist and gift card number and pin, and have the purchases shipped to the Bethlehem Center.
This year we missed the kids’ energy and joy as they boarded the bus. We missed seeing the gifts for their parents and grandparents in their shopping carts. Personally, I missed seeing my son, pushing his tiny shopping buddy in a shopping cart, laughing the entire time. We missed their adorable faces at the checkout as their purchases were being bagged and labeled. We missed seeing them show their parents their purchases when they were picked up.
However we did have some pretty amazing moments this year, despite all the things we missed. We were able to include all of our virtual learning students in our Christmas shopping this year, giving joy and support to more families than ever before. We got to read dozens of adorable and precious wish lists written by all of our kids. We were able to include shoppers from out of town, who love the Beth and our kids but have not been able to participate in this amazing experience in years past. We were able to share stories about the kids with their shoppers, reminding us exactly why we love each of them so much. We were able to see the amazing generosity of shopping volunteers, wrapping volunteers, and donors, which never ceases to amaze us.
Even with all the nasty curve balls 2020 has thrown us, this was undoubtedly our best shopping year ever. May we appreciate all of our blessings even more because of those curve balls.
Rachel is our Director of Education here at the Bethlehem Center. She is known by our staff and the students of our Virtual Learning Center and Read To Lead Academy for big heart and her continuous devotion to the children of South Chattanooga. We are so thankful to have Rachel as a part of our team.