Eight Staff Members at a Seattle-based Holiday Gift Drive Wrap Presents for 550 Families Despite a Lack of Volunteers During COVID-19.

Becky Rysemus standing in the Forgotten Childrens Fund Warehouse.

Becky Rysemus standing in the Forgotten Children’s Fund Warehouse.

Norah White, Editor-in-Chief

In the winter of 2020 when volunteering was closed for the Forgotten Children’s Fund, its eight staff members took it upon themselves to wrap every single present donation to help a total of nearly 2000 children and 550 families. 

The Forgotten Children’s Fund (FCF), which was started by a Seattle restaurant owner in 1976, aims to wrap and deliver presents to children in need on Christmas day. 

Now, nearly four decades after its founding, the Forgotten Children’s Fund is still helping upwards of 2500 kids every single year. 

“I’ve been here for 13 years,” says Becky Rysemus, a staff member at the FCF. “And that’s not even very long considering how long some of ‘the girls’ have been here.” Rysemus uses “the girls” to refer to her colleagues, with who she is extremely close. 

During the Holidays, Rysemus and seven of her friends and family members run the Kent location of the FCF. They are there almost every single day of the week, and together do all the planning and setting up.

“It’s a family affair for me.” Rysemus continues. “That’s part of what makes working here so special.”

Volunteering at the FCF includes being assigned a family and wrapping 3-5 gifts per person plus stuffing stockings based on that families needs and interests. This means each gift is personalized to the family member’s age, gender, and hobbies, and even favorite color. 

After 43 years of a dedicated volunteer body, in the winter of 2020, the FCF staff was faced with a big problem. They weren’t permitted by Washington State to allow volunteers because of the COVID-19 protocol.

“It was a shock to us all,” Rysemys said, “but we already had all the toy donations and we couldn’t let these kids go present-less. So, we decided to wrap all the presents ourselves.”

Rysemys and 7 other staff members wrapped toys for nearly 2000 kids all by themselves. 

“We had to make some modifications to the process,” She continues, “For example, we used colorful bags instead of wrapping paper to make it all move faster.”

They also were unable to deliver the gifts directly to their child’s doorstep as they would have on a normal year, so they had families come to pick up their gifts in person.

Despite some setbacks, the FCF staff continues to be extremely dedicated to their craft. 

“There is no paid help, we are all here because we want to be,” Rysemus says. “I think that really showed in 2020. We didn’t lose a single staff member.”

Rysemus explains that working at the FCF is rewarding for all parties involved, for a variety of different reasons. 

“The most rewarding part of it all is at the end of [December] when the elves and Santas come and load all the presents into big trucks to be delivered to the kids. It makes it all worth it.”

“Another cool part is seeing the volunteers we get from all walks of life,” Rysemus continues, “One guy comes at the same time every single week and he comes so often that he knows how to do it all on his own.”

This holiday season, the Forgotten Children’s Fund is back open for volunteers and plans to reach a goal of 750 families by December 23. This year they are focused on helping the flood victims from Whatcom County.

Rysemus and the other staff members are hoping to see a large increase in the number of volunteers for the 2022 holiday season and continue the Forgotten Children’s Fund for many years to come.

You can visit The Forgotten Children’s Fund and learn more about their mission here.