QUINCY – It was a scene straight out of the North Pole. Hundreds of dolls, bicycles, coats, soccer balls, Legos, Hot Wheels, board games and piles of other toys filled the indoor soccer field Monday at the Hale Family YMCA. As Santa’s helpers, staff and volunteers sorted, wrapped and labeled gifts for 845 children as part of the annual Holiday Outreach Program.
“It’s more than a toy ride,” said Lauren Del Olio, vice president of marketing and communications. “We also provide opportunities,” she said, including swimming lessons and camp registration.
The program began more than 25 years ago with a small group of teachers in the basement of Snug Harbor Elementary School in Germantown. It has grown significantly since then. “This year we will serve 845 children from 426 families,” Del Olio said, the most donations on record. “That’s one of the things we’re most proud of.”
2022 marks the first year that organizers have hosted the program on site. In the past, the Hale Family YMCA worked with Quincy officials to secure the vacant office space as an operations center. President and CEO Paul Gorman said the move allows their nearly 12,000 members to see the program in action and participate in the spirit of generosity. “It’s more compelling,” he said. “Immediately they mix.”
Project Managers Jasmine Netherwood and Aiden O’Loughlin directed volunteers and resources to where they were needed. While Netherwood made phone calls, O’Loughlin opened his toolbox to repair the outgoing bike.
Netherwood does various seasonal jobs for the YMCA throughout the year. For example, he works as a camp counselor in the summer and an outdoor educator in the fall. “My specialty was education,” he said. “I love, I love children, my dream is to be a school teacher, to work with communities and especially children.”
Volunteer Cassandra Beck of Quincy walked along red-and-green napkin-covered tables, each surface littered with toys. “I saw a letter asking for help,” Beck said. “They were looking for me, I responded.”
Beck has always made time for service. She teaches Sunday school and leads a youth group at St. John and St. Joseph Fellowship in Quincy. She also serves on the Special Education Quincy Parent Advisory Board. Beck has two children, 13 and 15 years old, one of whom has a developmental disorder.
“Giving back is very important to me,” he said.
For more information about the Holiday Assistance Program, visit www.http://ssymca.org/holidayhelp.