Thursday, January 7, 2010

Project Merry Christmas Part 2: It Feels Like Christmas

It was finally crunch time as we went through the final preparations for Project Merry Christmas and then finally Project itself on December 15th. It was a whirlwind of a week as people continued to come in and out of the Farm. It was pretty nonstop, filled with cookies, caroling and craziness. All in all it was a great time that left us completely exhausted but fulfilled.

The first group that came in was a young adult group from Cincinnati. Included in this group was my good buddy from school, Matt and his roomate (also from ND), Leah. It was really cool to see people I knew on the Farm. It was funny thinking about the odds that Matt and I would end up a few hours away from each other and that he would join a faith group that would make a trip to the place where I work. Crazy. We got to work right away with some of us cleaning up the clothes pantry (I feel like I've probably blogged more about that darn place more than anywhere else) while others went to go ring the bell for Salvation Army. Later that night we had more people from Cincinnati come down and a few from nearby Moorehead also arrived. The kitchen soon turned into a cookie making factory as we made an assembly line to bake and decorate cookies for pantry day. It lasted about 3 hours, during which we made over 200 cookies! There were all shapes, sizes and colors. By the end of it, we literally had no more room in the fridges as they were all filled with trays upon trays of cookies. The continuous cookie making clearly had an effect on Leah as she temporarily lost her mind and attempted to slather everyone with frosting.


We went to mass the next morning and made some final firewood deliveries. As the people from Cincinnati were pulling out of the driveway, a group from Loyola University of Chicago (LUC) pulled in to the Farm. They've been coming to the Farm to help out with PMC for a few years now so they were pretty excited to be back at it. They showed up with a whole U Haul full of toys and food, which was awesome. We had to unload the toys and sort them into the different age groups in God's Time Room. We also sent some people out to shop for supplies that we were lacking. By the time we finished, you could barely walk through the room. It was really great to see all the generosity in physical form. After we had sorted the toys, we started to pack them into boxes and label them. Soon everything was completely packed and ready to be loaded into the UHaul.

On Monday a group of students and I went to the Christian Community Center to deliver the food that LUC had brought in the UHaul. There was something like 1000 pounds of food, which if you think it sounds like a lot... well it is. Some of it was sorted but a lot of it was not. So we had the job of unloading and then sorting all the cans into the different categories that Jan uses. It was kind of similar to a day at the food pantry in that it was pretty hectic in the beginning but by the end we were all clicking as a team and working together. It was pretty cool to see the controlled chaos as various cans whipped through the air and into their designated spots. I was surpised by how quickly the work went. We got the whole truck unpacked and sorted in a matter of hours! I guess that just highlights the power of working as a group.

That night we had to prepare the Vanceburg Lion's Club for Project the next morning. We set up a series of "rooms" within the building. They were really just groups of tables that had toys from the same age group. We had a room for infants, 3-5 yr olds, 6-8 yr olds, 9-12 year olds, teens, and adults. We had to wait for the weekly bingo game to finish before we could set up so it was close to midnight before we finally got done. I was put in charge of setting up the table with all the teddy bears. And when I say all the teddy bears, I mean the mountain of teddy bears that we received. I have never seen a collection of so many fluffy characters since the heyday of the Care Bears. Apparently some lady donated her entire collection so that we had bags upon bags of these things. There were Pooh bears, panda bears, polar bears, Paddington bears, black bears, white bears, small bears, tall bears, and even an appearance by Teddy Ruxpin (which reminded me of my all time favorite radio meltdown ever). I spent painstaking minutes arranging the various Ursidates (Linneaus FTW) so that they looked all pretty and had some semblance of order. After finsihing set up, we trooped back to the Farm to rest up before the madness began...

The day of project began bright and early (as witnessed by Jamie's willingness to simply sleep in the kitchen overnight to shorten her trip in the morning). We had to get there about an hour early to do some final setup so we were all a little groggy. We made a quick run to Dolla Dolla General to pick up Santa Hats and an extension cord to plug into the coffee machine so Jamie wouldn't straight up shank someone. When we got to the Lion's Club, there was already a line of people waiting to get inside. We each got assigned to a different room and prepared for the rush. I, of course, was asked to man the teddy bear table. The minsiters from the local churches were checking people in at the front. Once they determined how many people were in their family, each person was assigned one of us as a shopper. It was pretty non stop for about 3 hours and there was a lot of restocking on my part. While it was great to finally see the results of our efforts over the last few weeks, it was also quite a crazy atmosphere and really was over prettty quickly. It was weird because we spent so much time getting ready for Project but it flew by and it was over. But was good to see a lot of the people that we work with in the community come in and get some gifts. Watching the kids take each person around with so much attention and care was really wonderful to watch. They were so sincere in their desire to see that everyone got what they wanted for Christmas.

Team PMC 2009: Please note Bossman being extremely professional in the background

After we finished up with Project and got a little lunch, we headed to the Nursing Home to do some caroling. It was fun to do the caroling with so many people since it drowned out our voices to the point where we sounded somewhat decent. After doing that, we headed to Wal Mart to ring the Salvation Army bell. Now, there are many strategies one can use when ringing the bell. There is the the normal, friendly ringer, the passive aggressive, blantantly aggresive and many variations thereof. Our particular tactic was to sing as loud as possible so people couldn't possibly ignore us. This is especially easy when singing the 12 Days of Christmas (5 GOLDEN RINGS!!!!!). We spent a few solid hours ringing and singing and raising money. We apparently made an impact because the Wal Mart greeters asked us to sing for them inside for them and declared we were the best crew of bell ringers they have seen (full disclosure: they've only been greeters for 2 years now). We even had a woman feel so sorry for us (it was pretty darn cold) that she bought us all hot chocolate. It was capped off by Jake taking off on one of those Rascal- type scooters with a bell and bucket to hit up the people in the parking lot.

The final task before Christmas break was to do the Pantry handout on the 18th. We spent time with the students from LUC making over 350 (!!) food boxes in preparation. With so many people helping us we had two sets of tables going and were abe to get a lot done in a little time. It was again a little controlled chaos but everything ended up getting done. The Pantry handout itself went smoothly and we had plenty of cookies for everyone.

We had one final adventure before we finally went home for the Holidays. After the handout, Joe informed us that we were going to get pretty cold and snow that night after the rain we had gotten and so the hill by the Farm was liable to ice over. Thus we went from the Pantry to the Farm to throw all our stuff into suitcases and rush to Bossman's. So our first few months together at the Farm came to an appropriate end as we flew around the staffhouse in a panic and crashed at Bossman's for the night.

I hope everyone had a a great Christmas and a good Holdiay season. Thanks to everyone that has come down to the Farm and helped out. Lewis County is a special community and you have all done a lot for it. I know I have learned a lot from the people down here and I hope you did as well. It's been four months that have gone by really quickly but have been really enjoyable. I have really had a lot of fun on the Farm and it's due in large part to the volunteers so thank you.

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