It’s a Wrap! Pioneers Delivered over the Holidays
Pioneers across the country have a pretty simple mission when it comes to volunteering during the holiday season. Impersonate the big, jolly guy with the red suit and white beard by delivering joy for those less fortunate.
In California, Pioneers strategize throughout the year to deliver extra joy in the dark days of December. They check off their lists, host holiday parties, and decorate and deliver stockings to young and old throughout the state, seeking only smiles and laughter in return.
Stockings are the Stuff of Holiday Cheer
The San Diego AT&T Pioneers have embraced a very special holiday campaign for many years. The group, really Santa’s elves in training, gets crafty and spends months creating, decorating and stuffing stockings. All that hard work culminates with holiday deliveries to a wide array of individuals and organizations in December.
The children also shared a few special moments with Santa, also known as Steve Montgomery, while munching on cookies. Montgomery, who started an annual GoFundMe page to help support the event, said the Telecom Pioneers and an army of other local service groups help bring the shoe shopping party to life each year.
“We fill and decorate between 1000-1200 stockings each year,” notes Pioneer Athena Hernandez, a San Diego AT&T council board member. “The cost to fill a stocking is around $30. Each year we get so many requests for stockings, some of which we unfortunately have to turn down."
This past year, the process started well before the holidays. Crafty volunteers congregated to hand-stitch felt into stockings and decorate them. The group sought donations (both monetary and from published wish lists) for the items to fill the stockings. Finally, in December, Pioneers spent time stuffing and delivering the stockings.
Here are just a few of the places where the Pioneers channeled Santa and made stocking deliveries in 2019.
Elementary schools: The Pioneer elves first stop was to visit the children. The Pioneers delivered around 325 stockings stuffed with goodies (including toiletries and small gifts) to students at three local elementary schools the week before Christmas. Even Santa showed up to meet and take a picture with all the students! The Pioneers also donated 72 decorated stockings, half of which were filled, and stuffed animals to Care House, a San Diego-based charity that helps disadvantaged children. That organization was able to finish stuffing the stockings and deliver them to a fourth elementary school in time for Christmas.
Senior citizen facilities: The next stop on Santa’s tour? A visit to a local nursing home where volunteers surprised residents with 75 decorated stockings stuffed with toiletries and treats. More importantly, the seniors received the gift of time, love and respect from the volunteers. A few Pioneers even provided live holiday music, and everyone enjoyed a spontaneous sing-along.
Conservation camps: Each year, the Pioneers work with a local church to spread holiday cheer to over 75 inmates at the Puerta La Cruz Conservation Camp, which assists with fire mitigation and conservation efforts in San Diego. In 2019, Pioneers provided decorated stockings and small calendars and then church volunteers filled them to the brim with toiletries and stationery. Right before Christmas, the volunteers celebrated with a party with inmates and staff where holiday carols were performed and delicious treats were enjoyed. The special event was capped off with the delivery of the stockings.
Santa's Helpers Stage a Special Party
For the last 30 years, the Golden Bear Pioneers have hosted an epic holiday party at a local elementary school in Marysville, California, a small town just north of Sacramento.
This past December was no different. Just before Christmas, the Pioneers orchestrated the annual holiday party to bring holiday cheer ‒ and some special gifts ‒ to over 250 of the school’s most disadvantaged children.
The Pioneers manage all the details of hosting the party and providing gifts. It starts in November with crafting handmade stockings and decorating tote bags. Then comes shopping for all the goodies to fill them, including small toys, socks, toiletries and warm blankets.
This year, over 100 Pioneers helped set up and host the event in mid-December. Even Santa made an appearance! Once the children arrived, the volunteers made sure that each one had a perfect Christmas party experience. Naturally, any great party starts with food ‒ the kids were treated to pizza and nachos, and, to top it off, ice cream sundaes.
Then Santa rolled in with his big bag of toys. Each child got to spend time with Santa and walked away with a large wrapped present – larger toys and clothing items ‒ as well as an overflowing stocking.
“It is such a rewarding time for all of the volunteers and is also one of our chapter’s favorite events,” noted Brooke Carter, of the Delta Gold Pioneer council. “The children are so happy when they leave the party, and excited to receive a present from Santa.”
Since many of the children participate in the free lunch program at the school, the Pioneers also ensured the kids took home a bag filled with non-perishable food to enjoy with their families over the holiday break.
These are just a few stories of how some of our Pioneers embodied the spirit of the holiday season in 2019. There are so many more stories not yet told and still to tell, of how Pioneers give back and spread joy throughout the year. Here’s to 366 days of giving and sharing in 2020!