A favorite Sunday meeting has been our annual Winter Festival which has been an exceptionally enjoyable and moving time for our community. It’s the one Sunday each year that we meet in the late afternoon in a darkened room. Our candles and fireplace bring warmth as we sit close beside one another in a large circle, our chorus sings Dona Nobis Pacem and other holiday inspired songs, poems are read, stories are told, a “Candle Vortex” is attempted, and we have a “Box Party” where we assemble a hundred or more gift bags with hats, gloves, scarves, socks, toiletries and other items for people in need – all before enjoying a delicious holiday feast (pot luck, of course) and entertainment from our members and friends.
“Ah,” you say, “but that was before the coronavirus pandemic. Too bad we can’t have a Winter Festival like that this year!”
I say, “Not so fast! There are a number of things we can do, helped along by technology and willing and capable volunteers, and we can experience many of the best parts of our Winter Festival even if we are not able to gather in the Meeting House!”
Here’s the plan: We meet on Sunday, December 20th at 5:00 pm Eastern Time via Zoom. Everybody brings a candle (electric ones are okay) and turns off the lights in their room for the festival. The chorus pre-records the songs, volunteers prepare poems, a story is chosen. We gather together first in the dark then we each light our candles and enjoy the festival.
“Oh,” you say, “too bad we can’t do a Box Party this year. That has been such an important part of the festival!”
I say, “Not so fast! We can hold our Box Party with the help of technology, willing and capable volunteers, and generous donors!”
Here’s the plan: On Saturday 12/19 we turn the main meeting room into a “Pop-up Warehouse” and put up tables to hold the items that will be going into the bags. We will order items in bulk and also accept donations of new and unused items that can be dropped off at the Society lobby between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm on Saturday.
We will also be collecting money to cover the costs of the items we’ve ordered in bulk. Here’s a handy form we’d like you to use to make a financial commitment: Box Party Order Form
Volunteers will set up the tables and unpack the supplies, working in “tag team” shifts of people who share a household, leaving a bit of time between each team for the room to air out. A coordinator will monitor the room via Zoom and communicate with each team as needed.
On Sunday, December 20th starting at 5:00 pm Eastern Time volunteers will open the pop-up warehouse and, working in “tag team” shifts of people who share a household, prepare to fill the gift bags with instructions from Winter Festival participants. Each warehouse volunteer will join the Winter Festival Zoom session from their smartphones. The host will give each warehouse volunteer their own Breakout Room, and help participants join the Breakrooms to connect with a Warehouse volunteer who will show the participant (via their smartphone) what is available for the gift bags and then follow the participant’s instructions for which items to place in the bag.
Once the gift bag is filled, the warehouse volunteer will place it in the lobby with the other filled bags then be connected with the next participant, and so on.
On Monday, December 21, volunteers will take the assembled gift bags to the Volunteers of America shelter for the homeless in Valhalla.
“Hm,” you say, “too bad we can’t do a Holiday Feast this year. That has been such a tasty part of the festival!”
I say, “You’ve got me there! We can each have a feast in our own homes but I must say, it’s not the same!”
We can have entertainment, though! Please let us know if you would like to participate playing an instrument, singing a song, reading a poem(s), telling a short story, or any other idea you may have. Here’s a form to use to let us know your availability to help with the Box Party and/or the Winter Festival: Box Party & Winter Festival Volunteer Form
Looking forward to seeing you at the Winter Festival!