When the kids came down last week and found a scroll on the tree detailing their week of generous giving, Tyson was incredulous.   “Mom!  We’re kids we don’t have anything to give…I’m broke!”

And he’s right.  The boy is broke, primarily because he spends every bit of birthday money or chore allowance on the latest and greatest action figure/battling card game.

But, he’s wrong because does have something to give… he’s got stuff.  The action figures, the cards, the wii games, the outgrown jeans…part of the problem his room is a mess is because of stuff.  The copious clutter is filling his closet, creeping out from under his bed, spilling over his bookcase– threatening to smother him in the night or cause me to slip and fall on my way to putting away laundry—whichever happened first. 

And he’s got time.  Time to go on play dates, time to practice with the drama club, time to annoy his siblings, and time to negotiate a later bedtime…to buy himself more time.

My kids are resource rich and they didn’t even know it, which is why last week, they each took a turn volunteering for two hours at Cradles to Crayons. (C2C).

T.J. had the first turn on a rainy Monday morning.  I explained to him what we would be helping sort items for needy kids, and to be honest,  I was nervous that the experience would be a headache.  You never know if the environment will be kid friendly or the staff would have the patience and skill necessary to interact with both adult and kid volunteers, but I was pleasantly surprised.  

Volunteering at C2C was so much fun and this social-justice minded parent’s dream!  

We checked in at the front desk and received our printed nametags from a greeter in a purple apron who then invited us to hang out on purple bleachers while we waited on the the rest of the volunteer crew to file into the “Giving Factory” (yeah, they call the warehouse they put together needy children’s orders a giving factory…how cool is that?).  Michael Jackson’s poppy awesomeness played over the P.A. system and I noticed this quote on the wall by Dr. King:

Which afforded a great conversation with T.J. about greatness and helping others.  Fun music, personalized name-tags, a warm greeting, and teaching moments for my kids!  Cradle to Crayons, you had me at “Shamon!”.

After a brief intro about the organization and their goals, we were directed to our station.  Being mindful of my kids, Dave C.,  the group volunteer coordinator assigned us in the most logical of all places for kids pre-Christmas…the toy station!

Here are some of my favorite moments of the kids serving. 

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During his shift, Tyson became the toy consultant for the group since he was the only kid serving.  A good number (42 to be exact) of the toy packs put together that day was Tyson tested and approved to go out to the kids.

Trinity made a friend during her time of serving.  A five-year old girl named, Kiera where in typical girl fashion, they’d “shop” the donation bins of toys that needed to be organized, compared their finds, “tested for quality” (played) and then skipped (yes, there was skipping involved) over to the Step Three bins for the toys to be checked one more time and then assembled into toy packs.

T.J.  was the puzzle master!  His favorite part was finding puzzles, counting the pieces to make sure the toy was complete (because as Mr. Dave said, “what kid wants to get a puzzle that’s missing a piece? It steals from the joy of receiving the toy”…see, amazingly awesome standards and people at C2C) and then neatly boxing it up.  Sometimes he had to “suffer” in service and actually put the puzzle together to make sure it was complete.

Yeah, I’m a sadistic mom, making my kids serve others by playing with toys.

Although the serving process was so well organized and the experience was fun, what I appreciated most was their thoughtful approach to giving to needy children. 

C2C has high standards for what they give to children in need because they recognize the value in preserving dignity in the giving transaction.

In their intro speech they say, “we want to give children everything they need to feel comfortable, valued, and ready to learn” and I love that.  They approach social justice in the same holistic and respectful way T.C. and I hope to teach our kids and practice in our church: giving to those in need not just to meet their need so they no longer suffer but to attribute value and dignity so they no longer struggle with self-worth. 

We’re going back to help in January when they need the most help organizing, cleaning, and packing clothes and toys.  Check here later next week and I’ll put up a Doodle to organize a group of Boston area families to go with us.  They have Saturday slots available and family volunteer days, which I’ll post more once the offices reopen next week.

If you’d like to help but cannot commit to a volunteer shift here are some ways we learned in the wrap up after we served from Lynn Margherio, the founder of C2C. 

  •      Give footwear!  It’s a huge need.  Especially winter boots in good condition.
  •      Give other stuff.  Winter coats, clothing, gently used toys, etc.
  •      Give an outfit pack!  This is a cool way to help your children empathize with kids in need.  Read more on this page, outfit pack.
  •        Throw a party where you collect unopened toys for C2C clients.  While the toy packs are made up of gently used donated toys, the toys C2C sends to children on their birthdays are always unopened and new.  Again with the restoring dignity…communicating the joy of their birth by giving them a new toy to celebrate! 
  •     Donate funds through their website.

I’m pretty excited about this new opportunity for my children to give selflessly and it’s only a mere seven minutes away from our house!  It’s surprising how often C2C has come up in conversation just these past few days.  “Oh we should set that aside for Cradles to Crayons” or “I liked Mr. Dave we should go back to Cradles to Crayons” has been heard in the Moore house and for that I’m thankful. 

Cray-Cray for Cradles to Crayons,