On the coldest day of winter so far, with temperatures in the Boston area well below freezing, the Patriots Women's Association did their part to help make sure local children would have the gear needed to stay warm.
Thursday morning, Cecilia Chung, Cari Hoomanawanui, Jenny Develin, Taylor Van Scoyoc, Julie Quinn and Regina Najarian paid a visit to the Brighton, Mass., headquarters of Cradles to Crayons. The local not-for-profit provides homeless and low-income children with much-needed essentials, such as underwear, shoes and coats.
The women participated in the final stage of the organization's giving process, during which volunteers select and package items for individual children based on their specific circumstances. They helped fulfill 45 orders, with most of the children in need of cold weather gear as well as things like books, bedding and school supplies. The women handpicked items for each child, making sure everything was the right size for the recipient. They also put their personal stamp on the so-called "kid packs," as they had fun sifting through bins looking for their own favorite childhood books and creating matching outfits.
"We have to make sure it matches," Cari added, holding up a pair of shoes already selected for one young girl.
Although style specifically may not be the top priority for the children, Cradles to Crayons does place a big emphasis on quality.
"It's an 80 percent recycle model, but it's all new or like new," said Julie Lima, Director of Development and Community Engagement.
She explained that it's important to provide "dignity" through the donations. "It's the only stuff they have so we don't want them to get something that's not high quality," she added.
Since 2002, Cradles to Crayons has collected new and gently used items, and distributed them to families in need around Massachusetts. Last year, they were able to help more than 100,000 children across the state by working directly with social workers, hospitals, school districts and other organizations that serve the community. Additionally, as part of their Gear Up for Winter campaign they have already distributed more than 20,000 coats this season and anticipate a further 4,000 requests between now and mid-March.
"The Boston Public Schools are closed today [Thursday], partly because of this," Julie stressed. "Kids are walking [to school], and they're not sure that the kids have the adequate gear."
Earlier in the winter, the Patriots Women's Association helped with the Gear Up for Winter campaign by collecting 400 coats, and the group was happy to get involved with Cradles to Crayons again, on Thursday.
"It was a really good experience," Taylor said at the end of the visit, her first time at the Giving Factory. "It's easy to come in and do it. You have your shopping cart and it's fun to pick things out and match everything. You really enjoy yourself while doing it."
Director of Development Julie emphasized that donations of time and goods like those of the Patriots Women's Association are a big reason why Cradles to Crayons was able to surpass its goals for 2014.
"The engine that fuels our Giving Factory is the community and volunteers," she said, explaining that 30,000 people visit each year. "If we didn't have them, we wouldn't be able to do what we do."