We’re in the SODO Sears/Starbucks building right now along with hundreds of people from teens through seniors, all volunteers who are here with one mission: To make this a happier holiday for about 100 kids from local elementary schools. It’s the annual Rotary Club of West Seattle Children’s Holiday Shopping Spree, and as those kids arrive, they’ll be matched with volunteers for a busy morning including breakfast, choosing warm clothing – our top photo shows volunteers, sorting – shopping, talking to Santa, and more. It’s a herculean effort to organize and stage:
ADDED 7 AM: That hallway suddenly filled, as the first kids arrived:
The kids participating today are from Alki, Lafayette, Gatewood, and Roxhill Elementary Schools, Pathfinder K-8, and Concord International School. Volunteers include not only West Seattle Rotarians, but also members of the National Panhellenic Council of Seattle and its associated sororities and fraternities (Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Sigma Gamma Rho, Zeta Phi Beta, Alpha Phi Alpha, Omega Psi Phi, Phi Beta Sigma, Kappa Alpha Psi) – plus the Loren Miller Bar Association, and youth volunteers (we just met a group from Tukwila’s Foster High School):
ADDED 8:10 AM: More photos – from just part of the crowd of more than 300 volunteers:
… to the actual shopping!
We’re sitting next to a table with two volunteers and a little girl, making a list as they ask her what she’s interested in finding; this is all about practical gifts like warm clothes and shoes, and yet it’s a fun and festive atmosphere too (a table away, other volunteers are decorating the area where Santa will start meeting with the kids a bit later … update, he arrived to cheers and applause at 8:35 am).
ADDED: And even more photos, ahead, including a visitor from the Seahawks!
We spotted Seahawks player Brandon Mebane right before Santa’s appearance:
One key component of this massive morning-long operation is humor and good cheer among the volunteers. While we chatted with Rotary District 5030 district governor Ann Liberato, we asked if she would pose for a photo “near” Santa (who at that point was still awaiting the kids’ arrival):
West Seattle Rotary president Sue Lindblom (left center) and friends sported smile-inducing hats:
And even by that point, many had been working for hours – starting well before dawn, sorting and staging:
Then once the kids arrived, there was sizing …
And maneuvering out of the breakfast/Santa/lunch arrival area, over to the Sears store next door:
… and through the store:
… while back at operation HQ, there was decorating to be done …
… before Santa and elf could meet their new friends:
This was the 38th annual Holiday Shopping Spree – and even if you haven’t been part of the volunteer operation, you can still be part of making it possible for this to continue, through donating to the fund that helps pay for it all. There’s a donation page on the WS Rotary site.