In December of 2005 I volunteered to gift-wrap for the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia and discovered that teenagers rule the world. Two pretty teens worked with me, and when they smiled, complete strangers stuffed the donation box with cash. Fast forward to six years later and I’m sitting in Barston’s Child’s Play in Arlington with Donna Hamaker, wrapping presents for donations to The Reading Connection.
The Reading Connection instructions, emailed a few days before gift wrap day, were four pages long and left nothing to chance. My favorite lines: “If you encounter a Scrooge [someone who doesn’t donate after you gift wrap for them], just keep smiling and don’t worry” and “do your best to cope if it’s a madhouse.”
Volunteering carries some pleasant, unexpected consequences. First, inevitably you will meet someone who knows one of your friends. After three minutes of getting-to-know-you, Donna and I discovered that we both knew our dear friend Debbie, who was at one time the executive director for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of greater Washington DC.
Second, you learn invaluable new skills, like how to make gift bags out of wrapping paper. That allowed Donna and me to create custom, handmade gift bags for plastic dinosaurs, fuzzy stuffed animals and other lumpy presents and avoid those scotch-tape wrapping disasters.
Third, volunteering skills really do lead to job offers. Donna once signed on to gift wrap at Bloomingdale’s over the holidays (actually it was a part-time, seasonal job but stay with me) and soon after she was directing public relations at the Tyson’s Corner store.
Needless to say, the two hours flew by. Two hours, by the way, is twice as long as you need to volunteer with The Reading Connection to instill the love of reading in a child and boost her chance of academic success. All they ask for is one hour a month from you. I have volunteered with them before and that hour goes by very, very quickly.
Seems like everyone wants to give back over the holidays, and there are plenty of things to do. (On Sunday my husband and I officially became Santa’s tallest elves when we helped with toy-gathering at the neighborhood church). Gift-wrapping for literacy is a great way to support one of the most critical life skills any child needs to succeed.
The Reading Connection needs gift-wrap volunteers in two-hour shifts (click here) until Christmas Eve at Barston’s Child’s Play in Arlington and several northern Virginia Barnes and Noble. As an added perk, you’re in a great location to knock out some holiday shopping.
Just ask The Reading Connection volunteers to gift wrap it for you in a custom, handmade gift bag.
Jane Hess Collins helps and encourages people to give back through her volunteering, writing, speaking, coaching and workshops. You can follow her other Get Out and Give Back volunteer stories on Facebook, Twitter and her website. If you’d like her to volunteer with your organization, contact her here.