“I am so blessed. It is very helpful,” said Jessica Thompson as she picked presents for her children on Friday morning at the Station Avenue center.
She said the kids were a little upset they weren’t going to be able to gather with everyone and meet Santa Claus, but she explained the situation and how the pandemic has changed so much.
Volunteers and staff at G.O. Development have been working on the Christmas program since October, said director Francis Norman.
“These are my elves,” Norman said of Carol Hunter and Debbie Hill, who have been working five days a week since October to get the presents ready for the children.
Norman said the pair wrapped an estimated 1,000 gifts and were still working on some on Friday morning. She said the gifts were donated by a many people and churches.
“[The donors] just did it. The community has been so generous,” she said.
Norman said there is a “Secret Santa” who bought three car loads of gifts for children.
“I don’t even know her name,” Norman said.
The lengthy planning helped make the four-day event a little less chaotic than having 500-600 people in a gymnasium, Norman said. She said Friday marked the beginning of gift pick-up.
“We are doing [appointments] every 10 minutes,” she said.
More than 425 children are scheduled to receive gifts by Tuesday evening, Norman said. She said the pick up system allows fewer people to have personal contact during the pandemic.
Each child is scheduled to receive two to three gifts, a candy bag and the family will get a bag of groceries, Norman said. She said hats and gloves were also a part of the process.
“It’s different,” Norman said of the process. She said it was running smoothly on Friday morning.
“It is nice to have the kids party but this is easier and faster,” Norman said
A large number of families are scheduled for gift pick-up today. She said several Youth Opportunity workers will be on hand today to assist in taking the food and groceries to the car.
Brittany Chambers volunteered her time on Saturday morning along with Olajuwon Smith who also created a computer spread sheet to help organize the recipients.
Chambers said she volunteers in memory of her mother Valerie Chambers who assisted G.O. Development Corp.
“When she passed, we kept it [going],” Chambers said.