help the homeless keep warm

your generous gifts can help save lives

What do we do?

We provide warm socks and gloves to those in the most need, the homeless.

Warm Hands & Toasty Tootsies gifts are individually wrapped with a candy cane (a little sweet for the child in each of us) slipped into each glove, scarf or winter cap, and a note of encouragement to the recipient is enclosed. In addition, I give a card to a friend or loved one whom I exchange gifts with, explaining that a gift of Warm Hands & Toasty Tootsies was given in their name to someone in need.

And then what happens?

Well... they have to be given!

We identify outlets (warming shelters, battered women/children homes, overnight shelters) to distribute these gifts with the only two caveats being that they are to be given ONLY to the homeless and they are to be given at Christmas... not stored away for distribution year-round. While we understand giving to the needy... Warm Hands & Toasty Tootsies's focus is the homeless. There are two outlets that we give to annually, others are identified each year.

Ah... an easy task you say? I was told that I had the best job of all... delivery!

My answer was, "Really? Why don't you come with... as it is so easy." The man who told me this did... and walking out of the first warming shelter with tears in his eyes, he admitted he had been wrong... it was probably the hardest job of all... seeing.

We are blessed with a very special group of individuals who take on the hardest job of all... and they do it in person. These elves go out on the streets of Chicago and hand out gifts on lower Wacker Drive downtown where the homeless take shelter out of the wind (if not out of the cold) and on the west side of Chicago and other neighborhoods where the homeless abound. These elves are my heroes. I couldn't do their job. (Imagine me sniffling at this point and I am not ashamed to admit it, either.)

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Why do we do it?

We pass by the homeless on the streets... sometimes we avert our eyes because it is painful to see them... sometimes we reach out a hand--giving to help. The fact is, they need our help more than anyone, and they are living on the streets, through extreme, dangerous cold weather.

It began one frigid dark winter evening a number of years ago. My sister was out late finishing some last-minute Christmas shopping and saw a man in a thin jacket standing with a sign that said "Will work for food...Homeless". She had a warm heart but was pragmatic and thus unwilling to give cash, so she drove through Burger King, bought a meal, drove where he could see her, honked her horn and held the bag out the window... and he ran, tripping and falling, but picking himself up, and he gratefully tried to grasp the paper bag with cold bare hands made even colder by his tumble in the icy slush.

She related this incident and it made me cry...more importantly--it made me think at length about the fact that while I wasn't rich (or anything remotely resembling rich) I was blessed with enough... food, a home where I could lay my head, and warm clothes. Our family has always filled each other's Christmas stockings with little goodies, so I decided that for every gift I bought and gave I would buy a new pair of gloves, a scarf or winter cap and give it the homeless.

That's how Warm Hand was born and quickly became a year-round project. No matter how little the Christmas gift that I gave was, it had to be matched by a Warm Hand gift. Even in the lean years, I gave a little less so I could give that little more.

a Christmas poem

It's not the glow you feel
when snow appears;
It's not the Christmas cards
you've sent for years.
Not the joyful sound
when sleigh bells ring,
Nor the merry songs children sing.
The little gift you send on Christmas day,
Will not bring back the man you've turned away.
So may I suggest the Secret of Christmas
is not the things you do at Christmas time,
But the Christmas things you do... all year through!

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