Michelle Thompson: 'We have to get creative'

Posted: Dec. 5, 2012 6:28 pm Updated: Dec. 20, 2012 4:15 pm

As most gather gifts for family members and loved ones, Michelle Thompson plans Christmas presents for some that may need a little extra love.

While working as the volunteer coordinator for Quanada, Thompson saw the profound need among the clients, and that need inspired Thompson to donate time to the organization, even after taking a different job. Quanada provides emotional, physical and crisis support to victims of domestic violence.

The nonprofit offers counseling, advocacy and a secure shelter to those in need of those services.

Thompson coordinates the annual Christmas project. She sorts through families Quanada has helped in the past year and seeks out presents those children and parents might enjoy. Through her volunteer work, Thompson helps Quanada aid 40 different families that might not have anything under the Christmas tree otherwise.

"I think part of it is that I know because of the funding they have, they just are not going to exist if they don't have volunteers participate," Thompson said.

Why Michelle volunteers, in her own words:

"In the beginning, I was just trying to find a place that I could volunteer, but over time you start to see the families and you start to see the children that are affected by domestic violence. It just kind of sucks you in. It's hard to get away."

"We take donations. We have to do a lot of scraping together and get creative. It's based on what their needs are. We sort through probably five or six truck loads of things that we get throughout the year in donations. We just go present by present and say which child or adult would like this and we sort them out, essentially. "

"It's a whirlwind process because our clients are transient. They're not consistent. It's hard to nominate clients that were there any more than a year ago. It has to be a quick process, and they pick them up, and before Christmas it's all out the door again and back to the way it was before. It's a really quick whirlwind."

"We have a couple schools and they do a shopping trip every year and they shop specifically for Quanada clients. Then one year, the kindergarten class made up their own project called the jingle jeans, and it's a song that's to the tune of jingle bells. They filled an infant's jeans full of money, and with that year, I was able to buy things that people actually really wanted. Sometimes they just get things that I have and that I hope that they like, but that year I could get things that they specifically asked for."

"The day (the clients) come pick (the gifts) up, they're ecstatic. They're so thankful. The last couple years we put all of their gifts in a laundry basket and they're so happy they got to keep the laundry basket, and that's pretty simple happiness."

"If I could give one person one gift that they actually asked for that would be wonderful. We give a lot of things that are generic gifts. It's hard because it's so quick. I don't always know what their needs are in time because it's such a small window."

Michelle Thompson was interviewed by Staff Writer Maggie Menderski and photographed by Photo Editor Phil Carlson.