Thursday, December 6, 2007

Big traditions, little wanderers

On Nov. 28, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and WCVB-TV's Liz Brunner kicked off The Home For Little Wanderers' Gift Drive and Online Auction with a reading of The Night Before Christmas to more than 20 children in the home's Jamaica Plain location. Although it is the auction's third year of fundraising, the home's gift drive has been a Boston tradition since 1865.

The drive, then called "ThanksgivingInGathering," called upon the community to give to those less fortunate. "The Sunday before Thanksgiving," recounted Heather MacFarlane, public relations manager of The Home For Little Wanderers, "[The home] invited people to bring food, but also toys, clothing, and all types of things" for children in need. The community answered the call, and has been doing so ever since.

"People come in and say 'my mother or my grandmother came here and used to give, and I want to as well,'" said MacFarlane. "We had our kick-off last week, people from the neighborhood were coming in immediately when the sign went up."

The drive, MacFarlane emphasized, is not just about toys. "We call it a 'gift drive' because things as simple as toiletries to gift cards are important to these people," she said. "The simple items that we take for granted are things these kids really need."

In addition to giving, supporters can also receive. Gifts ranging from a spa package for six people at Emerge Spa & Salon on Newbury Street to a chance to meet celebrities such as Stephen Colbert and Ellen DeGeneres are being auctioned off on the home's website. According to MacFarlane, celebrities have been more than willing to support the cause. While some of them are sought out by the home, many celebrities, such as local comedian Jay Leno, "have a relationship with the home, and they donate every year."

The gift drive will run through Dec. 21, with drop-off points at the home's Toy Room at 161 South Huntington Ave., as well as all Bernie and Phyl's Furniture or Coldwell Banker locations. Toys can also be donated online at The online auction runs through Dec. 16 at

Article originally appeared in BostonNOW on December 6, 2007.

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