On March 5, 2014, I wrote a story titled, Westside Story – Community Christmas Angels.
The two women featured in my story have done it again. On December 12, 2014, The Friends and Family Holiday Give-A-Way was held. Christmas Angels, Joan Eisenhardt and Kathy Sweeney, volunteered for a solid year in their effort to create a joyous Christmas holiday for 500 low income Greater Lakes Mental Health Care clients who suffer from a variety of debilitating mental illness conditions. Greater Lakes, which must be considered a community asset, is located in the City of Lakewood at 9330 – 59th Av SW. T: 253-581-7020.
This year is the 15th year Joan and Kathy have brought holiday cheer to so many who have no other way to share in the joy of the Christmas season.
This all volunteer program passes 100% of the donated funds directly to the clients the program serves. Even the administrative expense is donated. Not one of our tax dollars is spent on this good work. It is a true community effort.
In the wee hours of the morning on December 12, 2014, clients, including many with children, started camping out at the front door between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. in order to reserve a good place in line.
Throughout the year, Joan and Kathy accepted gift donations that were combined with the gifts they purchased from various sources. They never paid full price. They negotiated with sellers, maximized the use of discount coupons and shopped at sales.
There were challenges. Occasionally they located a great buy, but had no money. At other times they had money, but could not find any great buys.
As they accumulated the gifts Joan and Kathy were then challenged to find a place to store their gift inventory. Historically, the answer has been to store the gifts throughout Greater Lakes staff office space. During a tour of the Greater Lakes Building, I saw gifts jammed into every spare inch of space. Gifts were stored in empty cubicles, spare storage rooms, under staff desks and on top of filing cabinets.
Leading the charge on providing creative storage space was President & Chief Executive Officer Terri Card. Her office space was clogged tightly with Christmas presents too. It was obvious to me that Terri does not ask her staff to do anything she would not do herself. I find supervisors with that attribute easy to follow. I have included a photo slide show to give you an idea of how Greater Lakes staff sacrifices their office space to provide gift storage.
On December 12, 2014, everything was set up in the lobby and an adjoining community room of the Greater Lakes Building.
Once the doors opened around 9:00 a.m., ten clients at a time were allowed into the space that is set up like a gift shop. Each shopper’s identity, as a Greater Lakes client, is confirmed. Clients chose a maximum of three items. The chosen gifts could be for themselves, a child, a friend or relative.
The presents include a wide variety of gift products ranging from practical items such as bedding and socks to fun items like dolls and bicycles.
While there are too many people to thank individually in the space of my article, there are a few who’s generous donations of time and money absolutely require a show of public appreciation. Had it not been for these contributors, there would have been no gift program in 2014.
- Puyallup Tribe.
- Rotary Club of Lakewood.
- Partners in Lakewood rotary.
- Safe Kids Pierce County – Certificates for 50 bike helmets.
- Heritage Bank – Lakewood Branch – Holiday Food Baskets.
- Volunteers – Hours and hours of donated time.
- Greater Lakes Mental Health Care staff – Donated time, money and storage space.
- Genoa Pharmacy.
- City of Tacoma I.T. and Legal departments.
- Let’s not forget Christmas Angel Joan Eisenhardt and Christmas Angel Kathy Sweeney.
Joan and Kathy and their loyal donors have given true meaning to the highly recognizable words, “Merry Christmas to all…”, all being the key word.