By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD News & Journal Editor
The “busy” season is about to begin! All the holiday planning and preparation is often stressful enough, and when wish lists are prepared and the shopping is done, many people find that their energy as well as their budgets are ‘spent’. They simply don’t have the time or desire to spend hours struggling with wrapping paper, ribbons, tape and scissors to dress up their packages … and even those who might have the time simply don’t enjoy it.
Since many retailers no longer offer this service, the United Way of Harrison County has a solution: stop by their gift-wrapping station at the Meadowbrook Mall and let their volunteers do it for you! This service truly helps shoppers “wrap up” their holiday chores.
United Way’s gift wrapping center will remain in its usual space; they’ll be set up in front of JC Penney’s at the Meadowbrook Mall again this year. And they’ll be open for business beginning this Friday – Black Friday – from 9 a.m. until closing. The service will be offered daily during mall hours through 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
According to United Way of Harrison County’s Executive Director Tina Yoke, it takes literally hundreds of volunteers to help staff the wrapping station for almost a month.
“It really takes a lot of help to ensure that the wrapping center is always manned throughout the holiday shopping season,” she said. “We have some faithful volunteers who have stepped up to help us every year for 12 years! Some, who really enjoy doing this, volunteer to cover the station several times throughout the season. Plus, each of our twenty-member agencies are responsible to cover a day.”
She added that Brad Riffee, United Way of Harrison County’s Community Impact Director, has done a great job this year recruiting youth volunteers. “We have Key Club members, sports teams and other different groups from area high schools giving us volunteer time at the wrapping center, and these proceeds help us meet our campaign goal,” she stated.
Tina noted that last year, the Gift Wrap Center made over $10,000!
Harrison County’s United Way team has set a goal to raise $850,000 during this year’s campaign. They are halfway there, which Yoke says is about where they typically are at this time of year. But with just a few months remaining, they still have a long way to go. That’s why it so important to support this holiday service that is being offered.
“I was surprised to learn that some people are not aware that the Gift Wrapping Center is there during the holiday shopping season,” she continued. “So we would like to encourage folks who are out shopping to bring their packages for our volunteers to wrap. And if possible, we also urge them to bring boxes if they have them. A donation of $2 per gift is requested, but many times people will donate more than that. We appreciate their generosity because these donations mean so much toward keeping our member agencies funded.”
First Energy Foundation is sponsoring the gift wrapping booth this year. The United Way of Harrison County uses this sponsorship funding to purchase boxes, gift wrap and ribbons. However, they also accept donations of boxes and wrapping supplies from the public as well.
Yoke says that, typically, men utilize this service more than anyone – especially on Christmas Eve!
“While you might think that most folks have all their holiday chores well under control by Christmas Eve, that is not always true. Our volunteers are VERY busy on Christmas Eve,” she noted. “And we have some very dedicated people who give up their Christmas Eve to wrap gifts for us, and we really appreciate them. They are taking time away from home on this busy day when they too have meals to prepare and lots to do and give their time to us. Some even bring their kids and/or grandkids and make it a family event to volunteer together!”
Yoke concluded, “We understand that not everyone is financially in a position to write a check to contribute to our annual campaign, but by paying a small fee to have their gifts wrapped by United Way volunteers, it is a great way to make a contribution and receive a service at the same time. It all helps our “LIVE UNITED” goal and helps our neighbors right here in Harrison County.”
Mall hours will be expanding soon, but shoppers can be assured that the wrapping station will be open with volunteers to accommodate their needs. There are still a few slots open if anyone would like to donate some time; typically volunteers work a two to four hour shift. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please contact the United Way of Harrison County by calling 304-624-6337.
When the holiday season is a thing of the past, the United Way of Harrison County will have one more remaining fundraiser before this year’s campaign comes to a close – the Chicken Wing Eating Contest at Buffalo Wild Wings scheduled for January 28th.