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Long Beach elves making sure everyone gets a gift

Updated: Jan 21, 2022

Shoeboxes of Joy brings holiday cheer to the forgotten. Sponsored by Kaiser Permanente

Published: 6:00 PM PST December 3, 2020

Updated: 10:50 AM PST December 7, 2021

LONG BEACH, Wash. — It's a small thing: a shoebox filled with socks, soap, candy. Wrapped in Christmas paper.

But for someone who receives one of these boxes - it's everything. “Sometimes it's not what's in the box that matters, what matters is that somebody came to their door and knocked, and wished them Merry Christmas, and remembered they were out there,” said De Ann Kettwig, founder of Shoeboxes of Joy. “Elderly and disabled shut-ins, they don't see anybody, they don't get visitors they don't get gifts, they don't have family near. When we provide their shampoo, their soap, their toothbrush, it seems like a small amount, but it might keep their power on, it might make it so they can buy groceries this month." Every December, De Ann and her father Jerry Kettwig and dozens of volunteers gather at the Long Beach Depot to make and fill ‘Shoeboxes of Joy’ - something to give to folks who don't get much. It started 13 years ago in Jerry's garage, today they make about 800 boxes a year. Local school kids supply hand-written cards. Volunteers stuff the boxes with essentials ranging from soup to toiletries. And everyone puts in a bit of love. Then, they all spend Christmas Eve and Christmas delivering these boxes to low income elderly and disabled people in the area. "For me this is Christmas,” said De Ann. "I live for it. I can't wait till it starts,” said Jerry Kettwig. For some recipients, this is their only holiday present: "And they don't have nobody to think about them, but we take 'em a box, I've had people start crying,” Jerry added. Cindy Ledger and Tony Coulston have both received boxes and say that when the volunteers arrive at their apartment complex bearing boxes and singing carols, the elderly resident’s eyes light up. “It's awesome,” said Cindy. Now, Cindy and Tony are paying it forward, helping wrap and stock boxes this year: "Next year I'm gonna have to try to find out their schedule so I can give ‘em a hand, go shopping for 'em or something,” added Tony. Usually, volunteers raise funds with bake sales, but COVID has made that tough this year. Locals are doing their best to support the cause - someone handed a 25 dollar check out of their car window to Jerry mid-interview while Evening was there. But they’ve added more to their roster of recipients because of the pandemic, and they still need to buy more essentials to fill their shoeboxes: “The need is greater and right now we're kind of down on products, but I do believe that somehow, someway, we will make it,” said De Ann. Her father was blunt: “Honestly, we’re strapped for cash right now.” Despite low funds, the tree is up and volunteers are wrapping boxes, faithful that they will be able to fill them before Christmas. De Ann says what’s inside is important but adds that festive paper and those handmade ribbons may be the most important thing about a ‘Shoebox of Joy’. “Because we want to give a gift, we want them to feel that they're important, that they were thought of and that they are remembered,” she said. Sponsored by Kaiser Permanente as part of Neighbors Helping Neighbors. KING 5's Evening celebrates the Northwest. Contact us: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Email.

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