MISSOULA - During the holidays, you’ll see many toy drive events around town to help the different agencies that assist families in need this time of year. It is the season of giving, after all.
After you donate money or buy a toy off a child's wishlist, you might wonder if it makes a difference -- and if so, how? As we found out, what you’re giving is something that could last a lifetime.
At Watson Children’s Shelter, the decorating is well underway with trees and ornaments and even an animated reindeer next to a bright pink tree.
“Christmas for our kids is a wonderful time, we transform the house into a winter wonderland, something that a lot of them have not experienced before,” said Watson Children’s Shelter Executive Director Mark Roberts.
“We just want them to have hope for something that they haven’t had so just to let them know that there are other experiences,” said Watson Children’s Shelter Development Director Angie Doucette. “And when they get older, they might understand they can make these moments for themselves.”
The emergency shelter is always full and are currently caring for 24 children who have come from some pretty heartbreaking experiences all across the state.
But Santa is coming! And he’s getting an assist from local toy drives including the recent Kyssmass for Kids radio auction and the Mountain of Giving trees and donation boxes.
“I see adults who had a joyful childhood and Christmas, and those memories are so important for them and they want to make sure that every child experiences that joy of Christmas because without this help there are a lot of families where that wouldn’t be possible,” said Mountain of Giving volunteer Sheila Callahan.
Callahan said that this year, more businesses than ever asked how they can help. Mountain of Giving helps 14 different agencies with holiday needs — and what you’re giving is more than just what’s under the tree.
“We have had social workers tell us that when they gave toys to children in the past, and they told them all of these are for you, the kids couldn’t believe it because they’d never had Christmas before — ever!" Callahan said.
Kysmass for Kids — which has been going on for more than 20 years — helps with gift cards and more.
“It’s the right thing to do, let’s just keep it simple. A little effort can have a big effect and that’s what I'd like to be able to do,” said veteran Missoula broadcaster Al Kessler.
Maybe some donations aren’t as big this year, but the important things in life come in all sizes.
"People don’t give from their wallets; they give from their hearts,” Callahan said. “And there’s a lot of people in Missoula with very big hearts.”