A Head Start for the Holidays

Guest blogger Janey Greenstein volunteers with United Way on the Emerging Leaders Marketing Committee. Janey is a marketing analyst at Alvarez & Marsal, a professional services firm, where she supports the company’s work with foundations and nonprofits.


I’ll admit it. When I see winter holiday decorations pop up this time of year, it tends to bring out my inner Grinch. Why ruin a good thing by starting so early?

That was until I met Morgan and the Giving Tree team at Friends of Youth during my Second Saturday volunteer project. When you’ve got over 6,000 kids to shop for, the holiday preparations kick off in July – and there’s not a moment to lose.

Friends of Youth delivers a broad range of services to youth and their families including an overnight shelter, counseling and transitional housing programs. Each year, they partner with local companies to ensure the kids under their care receive a gift during the holiday season. “Giving Trees” are decorated with tags describing each child’s holiday wish and placed throughout Snohomish and King County.

A few weeks ago, I teamed up with 11 other Emerging Leaders to write and sort hundreds of gift tags. Our group was tasked with organizing the tags so that each Giving Tree featured requests from the organization’s 25 different programs – one of the many strategies Friends of Youth employs to ensure no child is left without a gift.

Emerging Leaders
Sorting the gift tags offered a brief glimpse into what it might be like to experience homelessness. Many kids requested essentials like blankets, hygiene items and warm jackets. Others wished for toys, games or beauty products. These types of requests were an equally powerful reminder that homeless youth are in many respects, no different from any other kids their age.

Here were some of my favorite gift requests:

  • Ellie, age 16, asked for earrings “to make her feel glamorous.”
  • Jordan, age 21, asked for a sweatshirt from the University of Washington “to find inspiration to attend the UW one day.”
  • Lisa, age 24 asked for educational games so that her young daughter “wouldn’t fall behind.” 

Keep your eye out for Giving Trees at the Microsoft campus, University Village and Redmond Town Center. Although it will be another month or two before I don my holiday sweater, I’ll definitely be getting a head start on my holiday shopping for Friends of Youth this year.

Emerging Leaders is a group for people in their 20s or 30s who are interested in getting involved with their community through United Way. Sign up to receive monthly invitations to upcoming events and meet other like-minded young professionals while you’re at it!

 

 

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Showing 4 comments
  • Sandy Harms

    Hello,
    My company is new to Bothell and we have ~35 employees. We are a fun & generous group but we don’t have a lot of time to volunteer right now because we’re working 12 hour days. Is it possible to get a Giving Tree (or just the tags) for our lobby? I’m pretty sure every one of the requests would be honored. Thank you for considering!

    Sandy Harms
    Juno Therapeutics
    206-566-5512

  • United Way of King County

    Hello Sandy! It’s great that the Juno Therapeutics team is excited to give back! But, we don’t run the the Giving Tree program. Please contact Friends of Youth: http://www.friendsofyouth.org. Thanks for reading!

  • Shawna West

    Hi,

    My name is Shawna West, Commerical Account Executive at ATG Stores located in Kirkland, WA. I’m reaching out to Emerging Leaders specifically, the Marketing & Communications Department regarding a special upcoming Benefits Gala for the students and staff of North Seattle Community College.

    A Night of Hope & Healing Benefit Gala will be held on December 11 at North Seattle College. This event includes a ceremony to honor those involved in the accident and a silent auction. All proceeds from this event will go directly to the United Way Bus Accident Support Fund. This fund was created to support the students, their families, and the staff of North Seattle College. My company is the founding cooperate, sponsor, as the organizer, I am in need of volunteers to make this special event come true!

    Below are the areas of help, I’m in need of. Can you confirm if any of your group members would be interested? I can be reached via email at swest@atgstores.com or by phone at 425-814-2515 ext 2031.

    Thanks for your consideration,

    Shawna West
    Night of Hope/ Benefits Gala Planning Committee Chairperson-

    Subcommittee Volunteers needed-

    Head Program Coordinator- Works as the main point of contact for all subcommittee

    Coordinator. Works with Chairwoman and host of events to ensure smooth flowing volunteers

    for seating, auction, serving and cleanup efforts.

    1. Marketing Coordinator- Creates marketing plan, coordinates marketing outreach via

    Facebook page, twitter, television, newspapers etc.

    2. Media Coordinator- Contacts media (TV, newspaper, etc.) regarding gala and

    confirms attention.

    3. Corporate Sponsor Coordinator- Contacts potential local and national event

    sponsors.

    4. Invitation Coordinator- Creates guest list for event, organize invitations, and

    sends guest in attendance thank you notes. Prepares name tags for staff and

    volunteers.

    5. Benefit Welcome/Seating Coordinator- Overseas table assignments, ensuring

    proper seating for University Staff, Students and VIP Donner’s. Overseas volunteer

    seating host/hostess.

    6. Auction Coordinator- Reaches out to local companies for items of donation,

    oversees products and proper documents to donors. Reports final bidding results

    winners. Sends thank you notes for participation.

    7. Food Coordinator- Works with local food donation vendors. Coordinates food delivery

    timeline in coordination for benefits gala. Oversees food donation, donors receipts to

    food vendors and thank you notes for participation.

    8. Music Coordinator- Works to secure music participants for Gala Event. Performs pre

    event practice runs and confirms gala attire.

  • Heidi Searing

    Thanks for reaching out, we’ll be in touch directly via email!

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