To make sure no one is left off its own Christmas “nice list,” the Children’s Alliance of Hawaii (CAH) is on the lookout for some volunteers to assist with its annual Christmas Angel Project.
Cissy Shaner first became involved with the Angel project and the CAH in 1995 while working for retailer McInerny. According to Shaner, the volunteer relationship between McInerny and CAH was “unique,” and through the retailer she was able to get involved with all the different seasonal holiday projects put on by the non-profit.
When McInerny closed a few years ago, Shaner decided to become involved permanently as a CAH board member. She later resigned to become a staff member, where she had the opportunity to run the Angel project at a more hands-on level.
“Christmas is a very special time for me,” she explains. “And it’s special for these kids because this Christmas we’re going to give them is probably their only one.”
As part of the organization’s mission to provide care and support for sexually abused children, the Angel project is aimed at providing special holiday gifts to these children and their siblings. “In the very beginning of the project, we didn’t want to give them generic, this-is-your-age gifts,” recalls Shaner. “We wanted to give them something they really wanted. And these are kids who don’t ask for a lot, just what they truly treasure.”
Cutout Angels currently deck the halls of the CAH’s Honolulu office. Each Angel carries a holiday wish from a child CAH or a partnering organization serves. Beginning in early November, Angels are distributed to sponsors so that gifts can be purchased, wrapped and returned to the organization before Dec. 7. Volunteers will then arrange and deliver the gifts with plenty of time to bring warm holiday cheer to every good boy and girl.
Although they never get to meet those they help, Shaner believes the reason she and so many other volunteers keep returning to this project year after year is the simple joy of knowing they have helped a child. Thanks to 35 “Secret Santas,” more than 650 gifts were assembled and provided to families last year.
“It’s part of the holiday spirit but also about giving back to the community,” Shaner says. “The volunteers get really excited as they see all the work it takes to pull something like this off. That feeling spreads out to all different kinds of people.”
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