Dozens of volunteers wrapped gifts, tied bows and paused repeatedly Sunday at the Sylvester Powell, Jr. Community Center to admire the generosity of community members.
Thanks to their efforts, a group of northeast Johnson County children will unwrap toys, books, sweatshirts, electronics, clothes, mittens, balls and blankets this week, while their parents receive a full meal, clothes and a reminder that their neighbors want to help.
There are other holiday drives around Kansas City, but this one has a uniquely local spirit. Donations are collected primarily in Mission and serve residents of northeast Johnson County. It’s organized by Mission City Councilor Suzie Gibbs and a team of others from the city who seek donations from local businesses, residents and churches.
Gibbs often hears from people who don’t believe there’s a need in northeast Johnson County.
“Trust me, there’s a need,” she said.
The donation drive started small several years ago with a handful of families. This year the event will provide gifts to 27 families and a complete holiday meal to 41 families. Some of those recipients call the city of Mission seeking help. Gibbs also reaches out to social workers at SM North and Santa Fe and Frank Rushton elementaries.
“I’ve had people call me and just cry,” Gibbs said.
Mission Police Officer Matt Breshears said it’s easy to look at the price of homes and overlook the need. He volunteered to help wrap gifts because he sees it regularly.
“It makes you step back and ask how you can help,” he said.
Many of the volunteers come back year after year to help.
“I do it because it’s fun and because families need it,” said Kim Donaway, of Mission, who donated cases of pears, pineapples, apples and oranges.
“Nobody gives fresh produce. And that’s the thing that families don’t buy because it’s too expensive,” she said.
Carl and Cathy Casey, owners of Casey’s Auto Repair, donated popcorn to every family and agreed to help wrap gifts on Sunday. It was an ideal way to help customers and the community that supports their small business.
As the work slowed down, several volunteers gathered around a letter jacket that Carl Casey carefully wrapped for a teenager. He didn’t have to guess how it would be received on Christmas morning. The father knew exactly how important it would be to a parent and to the teenager who earned the high school letter.
“That’s going to make somebody’s Christmas extra special,” he said.