Amid a season when children make wish lists for presents and send letters to Santa, the Recycle Sale offers a chance for these youngsters to embrace the giving – rather than the give me – part of the holidays. For a quarter per gift, the kids are able to select one Recycle Sale item for each immediate family member.
I remember trolling the mall or the Bradlees department store down the road as a kid, meager allowance in hand, seeking the perfect-yet-affordable-for-a-child gift that would bring Christmas smiles to my mom, dad, and brothers. I can’t remember how many bottles of cheap perfume I gave my mother (who doesn’t wear perfume) or how many neckties my father unwrapped over the years, and goodness knows what I found for my brothers each Christmas.
The Recycle Sale allows the children to give gifts with plenty of thoughtfulness, but little of the hassle that often goes with gift-buying. Watching their faces light up when they find that perfect gift – the princess beanbag chair for a little sister, the sparkly earrings for Mom, a Red Sox logo-emblazoned anything for Dad – is purely priceless.
Each year families, other community members, and businesses donate items from toys to housewares, jewelry to books, items that are brand new and others that have been used but have lots of wear left – along with the boxes, paper, and ribbon to wrap it all. My children like to add toys they no longer use to the Recycle Sale pile, and I know others do, too. In this way, one kid’s discarded plaything becomes another child’s Christmas morning treasure. It’s sort of like recycling joy.
For months these items are left in the school foyer and sorted and stored away by a few dedicated volunteer parents until the Recycle Sale arrives. The day before the sale, the school’s own brand of holiday elves haul the boxes out of storage and lay items out by general category – younger kids, older kids, moms and big sisters, dads and big brothers – on a dozen tables in the school cafeteria.
This year’s elves included a handful of moms, the school principal (whose now-grown-up sons shopped at the Recycle Sale once upon a time), the newly-retired teacher who helped start the sale some 25 years ago, and the school’s administrative assistant and her daughter (who was shopping here as recently as a few years ago and seemed captivated by the setting up process).
The morning of the Recycle Sale, more helpers arrive, donning red and green elf hats and felt antlers and turning up the holiday tunes as they prepare for the onslaught of kids giddy with holiday cheer.
For four hours during the Recycle Sale, children from kindergarten through sixth grade file happily into the room, meandering the maze of tables to peruse stuffed animals and games, puzzles and books, sporting goods, table linens, picture frames and more. Even the cheap perfume and neckties are there. The Recycle Sale elves help children match gift items to recipients, then wrap each present in crisp boxes and bright paper.
This is my family’s third year of Recycle Sale giving. The event has yielded many treasures opened on recent Christmases past: glass candle holders, which had to be immediately added to the holiday table; a notebook with someone else’s name on the cover, which my youngest daughter has happily filled with drawings and scribbles; a zippered bag for my husband’s golf shoes; a kit to make personalized birthday cards; various jewelry; a small stuffed horse; and an awesome toy fire engine that was easily worth 100 times its 25-cent sale price.
Far better than the gifts, though, is the children’s joy at giving them. On Recycle Sale day my kids came home and jubilantly placed their presents – the first of the year – under our freshly trimmed Christmas tree. Unable to contain their glee, they each whispered to me what they had found for each other.
This enthusiasm for giving outshone the excitement over what they may themselves receive on Christmas day. The gift conversation has moved from really, really, really hoping that Santa will bring what they’ve asked for to utterly excited anticipation of their siblings and parents opening the gifts carefully selected at the Recycle Sale.
At the end of the day of the Recycle Sale, the children leave school with stacks of carefully-selected, colorfully-wrapped presents for the people they love most in the world. They leave behind a jumble of leftover Recycle Sale treasures, ribbon ends and paper scraps on the floor, and cookie tins overflowing with quarters.
Those quarters will add up to a couple hundred dollars, which the school donates to a local charity selected by students. And so the joy of giving is recycled in more ways than one.