Teri Mitchell could teach Santa Claus a few things about getting ready for Christmas.
As the director of the archdiocesan Catholic Social Services’ (CSS) Bucks County Family Service Center, Mitchell has helped hundreds of area parents provide a memorable holiday for their children, thanks to an annual toy drive and Christmas brunch that she and her team coordinate.
On Dec. 21, more than 200 clients of the center received bundles of gifts over breakfast with Santa at CSS’s Fatima Catholic Outreach Center in Bensalem. The two-hour gathering included photos with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, cookie decorating, arts and crafts projects, and a reading of “Llama, Llama, Holiday Drama” by children’s author Anna Dewdney.
So how do Mitchell and her staff of elves pull off such a full morning — while preparing for last-minute holiday assistance requests – and still manage to enjoy themselves in the process?
By planning ahead, said Mitchell, and by knowing whom to ask.
“We start putting the word out in late September,” Mitchell said. “We could not do this without the help of the community.”
She and her team contact area parishes, family, friends and community members “to see who can adopt a family” for the holidays. The Marine Toys for Tots program is also “very instrumental in getting family gifts” together for the outreach.
Mitchell also invites participants to simply adopt one child, or to volunteer at the breakfast.
“My own personal motto is that I like to invite others to participate, and have them share their Christmas,” she said. “It builds your blessings when you do.”
The toys, which include a number of educational activities, are kept unwrapped. Parents receive rolls of wrapping paper so they can “take ownership” of the gifts, Mitchell said.
Mitchell also makes sure to have a supply of gifts on hand for Christmas emergencies.
“The last-minute calls are the ones that really get to your heart,” she said. “Maybe something happened with the family, and grandparents suddenly find themselves having to host Christmas for their grandkids. But we plan for emergencies, and we’ll be able to help them.”
Donors and volunteers – many of whom are family and friends of Mitchell’s staff — appreciate the opportunity to do more than simply “click to give” at Christmas, she added.
“This is hands on,” she said. “This is sharing, with strangers and community and neighbors.”
In a time of crisis CatholicPhilly.com keeps the information flowing
During the current coronavirus crisis, you can help CatholicPhilly.com deliver the kind of news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live ― every day.
Budgets are tight at this time, and CatholicPhilly's is no different than those of most families. We make sure your donation in any amount will go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103