Spotlight Program: Winter Festival of Gifts: A Season of Giving

Misty winter afternoon (5277611659)At CMLE, we so enjoy all our different types of libraries, archives, and other members! Seeing all the work you are doing is so inspiring; and we want to return the favor by helping you to find some of the great programming going on around the profession.

Each week we will share an interesting program we find. It may inspire you to do exactly the same thing; or to try something related; or just to try out some different programming ideas. (Check out our podcast episode on Library Programming; you can tune in here! Or, of course, subscribe or stream to enjoy any of the episodes!)

By Jennifer Massa, Fiction Program Librarian, Mount Prospect (Ill.) Public Library

“A food drive with a twist, Winter Festival of Gifts (WFoG) has become a beloved annual tradition at Mount Prospect Public Library (MPPL) as a means to creatively give back to the community, while at the same time highlighting staff talent. Diane Davis, pioneer of the program, took time to share the ins and outs of this celebration of giving.

Winter Festival of Gifts is a food-for-crafts charity program for staff members at the Mount Prospect Public Library.Jennifer Massa: Could you tell us a little bit about WFoG? What is it? What is the purpose?

Diane Davis: It is a food-for-crafts exchange to collect canned and boxed food items for local people in need around the holidays. Staff members trade a canned or boxed food item for a ticket to be used in a giveaway for various arts and crafts items. It is set right after Thanksgiving and runs through the second week of December, but isn’t a Christmas program.

JM: Could you give us some examples of the donated gifts?

DD: Lots of baked goods, which we learned the hard way needed to be made for the winner at a time agreed on by both the donor and winning ticket holder. No perishable items on the display! Lots of knit and crochet scarves and hats, paintings, handmade holiday greeting cards and baskets of jams. A few years back we added re-gifted items so that more people could participate. We received donations of yards of 40-year-old unused silk fabric; jewelry (both handmade and mass-produced); unused cell phone covers and chargers; sets of beautiful old china; a warm winter basket of soup made to order containing a soup mug and crocheted scarf; mosaic glass; crochet animals; and more than I can list!

JM: How did WFoG originate?

DD: The WFoG started at MPPL in 2010. My talented colleagues had gifted me with so many lovely knit and baked goods and fun little items that I joked about all of us starting a business. The idea for the giveaway began with admiration for their crafting abilities and wondering how we could use those skills to raise money for local people in need. The plans grew quickly once I started asking my friends to help organize and more staff members got involved, and voila!

JM: How have you tried to encourage donations of gifts and goods?

DD: The WFoG committee has members from most of the departments at MPPL, and committee members are responsible for giving staff tickets for their canned and boxed items. For the fifth year, we decided to expand a bit and decorated the staff room bulletin board, added a large paper thermometer to reflect the number of items received during the two-week period the program was live, and on opening day left mini Take Five candy bars in the mailbox of each staff member. We broke records that year with the number of donated items and the amount of food sent to the local food bank. Over 1,300 canned and boxed food items, I believe.

 The program is a morale booster during a stressful time of the year, winners are thrilled with their gifts and, most of all, you’re helping to feed neighbors in need.JM: How has WFoG grown throughout the years?

DD: We went from around 40 craft items the first year to receiving 100 donations yearly. After opening up the donations to items that aren’t handmade (re-gifting) it really exploded.

JM: What have been the challenges in running WFoG?

DD: It takes a dedicated and creative group of people to make it work. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the best! Amy Haffner, Julie Collins and Elaine Ball were amazing, and so many others have been instrumental in putting on the WFoG program each year. By year seven, the last year I chaired the committee, we had the timing down for everything that needed to be done and people in place to do what was needed. Special thanks to MPPL’s webmaster Chris Amling and IT specialist Linda Gadja for putting up donation submission forms and keeping the staff up to date.”

(Read the rest of this article here!)