Updated: Aug 12
By Carmen Feliciano
We all wanted more free time — to read the books that were collecting dust, to clean out closets, to organize the kitchen cabinets. What we never expected was the amount of free time this pandemic continues to give us.
For the last 27 years, I’ve been volunteering with a nonprofit organization that gives shoe boxes filled with new toys, school supplies, clothes, and toiletries to children in dire situations in over 120 countries around the world. Many of these countries are dealing with civil war, refugee camps, extreme poverty, and orphanages and have no resources to help these children.
The boxes are filled by members of all types of organization, individual people, churches, companies, senior centers and civil servants. For the years while I was working, all I could do was organize the collection of these boxes at my church and fill about 10 boxes on my own. Members of my church fill about 300 boxes a year.
Once the pandemic hit and I wasn’t able to go anywhere, I started making scarfs, tote bags, jewelry and stuffed dolls. To date I’ve made close to 500 items. It’s me kept me busy, made me feel better, and helps me cope with the loneliness.
I learned how to make jewelry at the Bay Ridge Center. Susan Louis, the sewing teacher, taught me how to make tote bags, and she also gave me tons of material and stuffing. Over the past year many of my friends at the senior center donated new sneakers, crayons, and coloring books.
It’s still not easy not being able to spend time with friends and family. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to stay productive during this difficult time, and I never realized how well the skills I learned at the senior center would be put to use.
It’s been rewarding having the time and resources to make these items for children whose lives are filled with hardships beyond their control.
If you would like to learn more about this organization, or if you have any items that you would like to donate, please send me an email.
Carmen Feliciano became a member of Bay Ridge Center after becoming disabled from volunteering at Ground Zero. She wrote this piece to inspire other members to tell what they’ve been doing during the past few months. Please send your story to Todd Fliedner at Bay Ridge Center. We’ll hope to add more of your stories here.