Holidays are a time for family, and for thinking about loved ones, near and far. For many families getting together with loved ones is often a cornerstone of the holiday season. Parents, siblings, uncles and aunts, this is the time of year we oft get together.
“During a time when many families are struggling, it’s nice to make the season a little brighter for those families.”, said Sylvia Ramirez, President of the Chelsea Kiwanis Club.
The Chelsea Kiwanis Club has been helping children and families in the Greater Chelsea community for over ninety (90) years. Typically, we would do so with local fundraisers and drives where as a community with would come together. This year, as we all know is very different. “As a Club and a community, we have been so home based for health and safety reasons, but we knew that so many of us are missing those connections with loved ones near and far. That was the launching point for us as a Club; we wanted to do some outreach, that we all could serve and give back in a more limited capacity to let loved ones know we are thinking of them.” Said Ramirez. “We put our heads together, and that is when we researched and found ‘Operation Christmas Cards for Troops Overseas’ (OCCTO)”.
OCCTO is a veteran founded organization who seek to connect community with service members overseas during the holiday season. The goal is to collect “holiday cards” and small care packages for U.S. service members in all branches worldwide. The organization got its start by helping one person in Afghanistan in 2010, and now in 2020 it has now flourished into an over 9000-member network supporting deployed service members worldwide.
“We seek to help kids and hold events all year long,” said Ramirez. “At this time, and after the year we have had, we wanted to give a little more — and we know there are children and families who are suffering emotionally from the distance, and from fear and anxiety of the unknown. It’s rewarding for us to step in, along with OCCTO, and provide a little cheer.”
For the Chelsea Kiwanis Club, community engagement means even more than during the holiday season. “We have other projects in the works to bring cheer and comfort to families at Boston’s local Children’s Hospitals, and we have been working locally with our partners at the Chelsea Public Library, to promote and celebrate #NationalLiteracyMonth (November).”
For Ramirez, and her Club members, “Our work and hope are to work with youth directly and indirectly, to provide guidance and mentoring so that are inspired to help and to create a vision for the future, for themselves and their community”. “We are the ‘little Club that could’ I am fond of saying.” Ultimately, all that service makes a big difference, in our community and others served by local Kiwanis clubs around the world. “If we help 10 kids, and the club in the next town helps 10 kids, and a club in another state or country can help 10 or 20 kids, it all adds up.”
Community members who would like to serve kids and families with like-minded adults are encouraged to visit during a club meeting to learn more. Visit chelseakiwanisclub.org, or their Facebook page @ChelseaKiwanisClub. More information about OCCTO can be found on their Facebook page @OperationChristmasCards4TroopsOverseas