The first students have crossed the bridge and arrived at Sears SODO for the biggest event the Rotary Club of West Seattle organizes every year, the Children’s Holiday Shopping Spree. They’re coming here from five elementary schools in West Seattle – 96 kids [updated number], greeted by a corps of volunteers more than double that size:
A little breezy this morning! Inside, volunteers of all ages – from high-school students to retirees – have already been busy in the pre-dawn hours, getting ready:
The tasks range from assembling bags for the kids – who are from Arbor Heights, Highland Park, Sanislo, Schmitz Park, and West Seattle Elementaries – to keeping track of the volunteers:
They’re not just West Seattle Rotarians, but also Panhellenic sorority and fraternity members, as well as the aforementioned students, including University of Washington Rotaract members and Mercer Island High School Interact members. They’ve all just heard the morning’s order of events from West Seattle Rotary president Andy Horner:
He noted this has been growing since 1972, when the West Seattle Rotary held the first shopping spree … for nine students. With him in that photo, at left, is Martha Sidlo, who organized this year’s shopping spree. Next up – volunteers are paired with kids, for breakfast, followed by shopping – $100 gift cards, to be used to purchase essentials (with a 10 percent discount) – Santa photos, and lunch.
ADDED 8:14 AM: Before shopping, there’s the waiting …
Then the smiling (with Rotarian Josh Sutton):
The coat-choosing (with Rotarian Dr. Susanne Gee):
And inside Sears, the shopping (that’s Anissa the Elf, offering a greeting)
ADDED 11:48 AM: Santa listened to many wishes, and posed for many photos, but this scene said it all:
To make this happen, it takes many donors and sponsors – they had big thanks, for example, for their baked-goods donors The Essential Baking Company and Macrina Bakery, as well as for SODO Kitchen, the venue in the Sears/Starbucks building where everyone gathered – and you can donate too: A link to the Shopping Spree fund is on the Rotary home page.
P.S. Some extra info from WS Rotary president Andy: 256 was the final volunteer count – 35 Rotarians, 221 non-Rotarians. Four drivers from First Student transported the kids – Chuck, Robert, David, Jim. The schools each had coordinators – including Arbor Heights principal Christy Collins, Pam Rago from Highland Park, Nina Bowman from Sanislo, Jennifer Toth from Highland Park, and Tracie Thompson from West Seattle Elementary.