Holidays with Heart Brings Joy to Erie House Participants and Families

December 21, 2016 | Chicago, IL

Spirits were high in the gym at Erie Neighborhood House on Friday, December 9, as volunteers decked the halls for the next day’s Holidays with Heart event. Each December, Erie House hosts a two-day event to spread some holiday cheer to the children enrolled in its programs and their families. The event brings donors, volunteers and staff together to make the holidays a little more special for families in need.

On the first day of the event, volunteer groups from Allstate PLAN, Chicago Run, HBK Engineering, the Motorola Mobility Foundation, Perkins+Will and a handful of individual volunteers gathered in Erie House’s gym to wrap hundreds of gifts as staff organized them in Templeton Hall. Students from DePaul University decorated the gym to make the next day’s event all the more exciting.

Wide-eyed children and their families from Erie’s Early Childhood Education, Expanded Learning and READS programs walked into a festive Erie House Saturday morning to enjoy breakfast, participate in festivities, unwrap presents and—most excitingly—meet the big guy himself, Santa Claus.

“This is really something special for our families,” says Wendy Viteri, Youth and Family Support Coordinator at Erie House. “Some of them have to work Christmas Eve or Christmas Day so this is when they get to have their family time.”

Watch this YouTube video to view higlights from the Holidays with Heart event held on December 9-10, 2016, which distributed gifts to more than 500 children in the Erie House community.

Gifts for the event were donated by over 200 corporate, congregational and individual donors including the First Presbyterian Church of Wilmette, Highland Park Presbyterian Church, Guggenheim Partners and several Erie House board members. Thanks to our donors over 500 children received presents this year.

“For them it’s something wonderful because a lot of their families are financially in need. Just a little something is big for them and when they receive their gifts they get so emotional,” says Viteri.

In addition to the 500 gifts, 34 families with critical needs were sponsored. Staff identify critical needs families as ones that, due to unfortunate circumstances, cannot afford to buy presents for their children, let alone essential items for the winter such as jackets, hats, gloves and boots. Donors sponsor these families by either giving to Erie House in support of them or by taking the family they sponsor on a holiday shopping trip.

“We have such wonderful donors that go above and beyond with the gifts; and for the critical needs families, they really go overboard. Our donors are key to this event,” Viteri adds.

This year’s Holidays with Heart event was a resounding success. Erie House would like to extend gratitude to the generous donors and volunteers that ensured our participants a happy and healthy holiday season.


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