Behind the Scenes: Holiday Edition

When I was a little girl, I always had an answer when adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. A teacher. A judge. A marine biologist who lives in Kansas City but somehow studies dolphins. I didn’t let logistics like living in a landlocked state stifle my plans. Despite my big dreams, it never crossed my mind that I could go to work every day for the jolliest boss of all time — Santa.

It’s true. I am a professional elf. Cornerstones of Care signs my checks, but they have some kind of arrangement with Mr. Claus. You’ll have to ask HR about the details.

Each year, my elf duties begin as the youth in our care head back to school. Cornerstones of Care serves more than 10,000 children and families each year, and we have to start early to make sure that all of them have a magical holiday season. I begin collecting personalized wish lists from them in September. Our Sponsor-a-Youth program allows members of the community to make these holiday wishes come true. You can select a youth from our online sign up form and shop for items from that youth’s wish list. Last year, we served over 600 children through Sponsor-a-Youth.

In addition to Sponsor-a-Youth, we also host a weeklong Gift Gallery for families in our community-based programs. The Gift Gallery is a holiday store where parents and caregivers can shop (at no cost!) for gifts for every member of their families, including themselves. These families are working through some pretty tough stuff as a result of trauma they have experienced. We want to recognize their progress and share the joy of the season by making sure everyone in their home has at least one gift to open over the holidays. With the help of businesses, churches, and fellow elves, we transform a conference room on the Cornerstones of Care — Gillis Campus into a festive holiday store that makes wishes come true. By the time a family steps into the Gift Gallery, hundreds of volunteers and donors have helped us stock the shelves — both with their donations and their labor.

Being a professional elf is truly an honor. I get to spread holiday cheer to children and families in need, and I get to work alongside so many others who generously donate their time and dollars to do the same. When Christmas morning rolls around, my work is done. I spend the holiday with my family — at least that’s where I am physically. In spirit, I’m with the children and families in our care and the wonderful community of elves that gave them all a magical holiday season.

You can join the elf crew!

Happy Holidays,
Kristen Zucht, Cornerstones of Care’s Head Elf