Christmas was made a little brighter for 20 underprivileged children after the AGC of Alaska staff lovingly filled colorful backpacks with warm clothes, toys and snacks.
It was the staff’s annual effort to support the Anchorage Home Builders Association’s “Shoebox Program,” which distributes the filled backpacks to Anchorage schoolchildren each holiday season. This past Christmas season, the Home Builders Association received 700 names of disadvantaged children from the Anchorage School District. The previous year, the association received 650 names.
The AGC office sponsored 20 backpacks, meaning each staff member contributed $50 or more and AGC matched the contribution. The staff was provided the names of 10 boys and 10 girls ages 5 through 8 to shop for.
“Every member of our staff participated,” said Margaret Empie, special projects coordinator. “We went shopping at Target,” she said, and Target joined the effort. When the AGC shoppers told the store manager what they were doing, the manager “gave us 10 percent off what we purchased.”
“The Home Builders provided us with the gender and age of the kids so we could buy appropriate gifts,” Empie said. “We tried to get each child warm pajamas, a warm hat and gloves. If we could, we got them an outer jacket or a pull-over fleece, something to keep them warm.”
The shopping list also included toys. “We worked hard to get them a toy,” Empie said. “For a girl, we bought a Barbie doll.” They were able to buy Barbie dolls for $3 each — a Black Friday bargain.
“For boys, we got matchbox cars and family games so they can bring in their siblings,” she said. “We tried to think of promoting the family as well.”
Snacks were also included, items such as tuna and crackers and peanut butter items to provide some protein, plus juice and fruit cups — “as much food as we could,” Empie said.
Empie credited Mandy Beaulieu, training director for the Construction Education Foundation, for braving the Black Friday crowds to get the deals. “She was incredibly generous with her time,” Empie said. “Mandy was very instrumental because she has two babies, a daughter who’s turning 5 and a boy who is 7 months old. She’s in the know of what these kids play with.”
When the shopping was completed, the entire AGC staff wrapped each toy, snack and clothing item and stuffed the backpacks. Taking part were Tanya Higgins, Lauren Sharrock, Kimberley Gray, Thea Scalise, Samantha Saechow, Beaulieu and Empie.
“We’re a small office, and for us to come up with $1,000 for this project, it’s a pretty cool thing to do,” Empie said.
Sharon Stockard is managing editor of The Alaska Contractor.