Temperatures were dropping, children were counting down the days to break, families were getting in the holiday spirit. At the Catholic Charities office in Wilmington, staff were focused on ensuring all families are able to enjoy the holiday season, through the “Wrapped with Love” Christmas Program. Families from six counties in southeastern NC: Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Duplin, New Hanover, and Pender, are able to access gifts for their children through this program.
In the week leading up to Christmas, Catholic Charities staff, along with the help of volunteers from local parishes, Smart Start of New Hanover County, Hope 4NC and other community agencies, unloaded, sorted, packed, labeled, and loaded toys to prepare for distribution day.
The frenzied week started Monday with the offloading of gifts from the Catholic Charities box truck. Gifts were gathered and donated by local faith groups including: St. Therese, Sacred Heart Southport, St. Mark, St. Joseph, St. Stanislaus and St. Andrews Covenant-Presbyterian Church.
Once toys filled the storage space, they needed to be sorted by age and gender. Volunteers diligently worked to ensure the right toy would be paired up with the eagerly awaiting child. Once the space was transformed from a massive mix of toys, to an organized store like appearance, volunteers were instructed on how to pack gifts.
The packing process is guided by applications which were completed by families much earlier in the year. Volunteers become personal shoppers and use the application form as a guide. Once all gifts have been gathered, volunteers enter the final step in the packing process by labelling each bag with county and family information to ensure accurate delivery.
Throughout the week, as gifts were packed and labeled, they were shipped to distribution locations. Monday saw all gifts for Pender and Duplin County completed and delivered by Catholic Charities staff. The next day, volunteers worked tirelessly to get Bladen, Columbus, Brunswick County gift orders fulfilled. As the week began to draw to a close on Thursday, staff used the Catholic Charities box truck to deliver gifts to Bladen and Columbus counties.
After hundreds of staff and volunteer hours, and of months of preparing, the final day of the 2020 “Wrapped with Love” program arrives. On Friday, families in Brunswick and New Hanover counties, who make up the majority of families assisted by this program, pick up their gifts at St. Andrews Covenant-Presbyterian. As families are picking up gifts, they have the opportunity to have their gifts wrapped by eager volunteer “wrappers”.
In Elizabethtown, one child had asked for a Spider-Man toy and a bike. When this child’s mother heard these requests, she knew it was asking a lot. “It broke my heart, but I told him not to be expecting a bike under the tree,” she shared.
However, due to the generosity of the community, Catholic Charities staff were able to bring out a Spider-Man toy and a bike. At this point the mother became very emotional, filled with joy at seeing these gifts for her son.
“She gave us both hugs and thanked us for everything we do and insisted on leaving before she started crying,” shared Daniela Vereau, Catholic Charities Disaster Case Manager.
Across the “Wrapped with Love” program, there are many more stories of children have their Christmas wishes fulfilled. These successes would not be possible without donations from local parishes, a partnership with UNCW CH & HS Dept of Social Work, Coastal Kia, N2 Publishing, The Hart Family, St. Andrew’s Covenant Presbyterian, and the many wonderful Catholic Charities volunteers.