For the third year in a row, Kristie Evans and her family have put on their metaphorical Santa hats and collected hundreds of donations for her New Jersey neighborhoods in need. This year, they stored those donations in New Jersey storage units at Public Storage before delivering them to 10 families in need by Christmas Eve.
“We’re filling in the blanks for families and making sure that kids have presents on Christmas,” she said.
Evans used to store the hundreds of toys, presents, food and clothing at her home before the holidays, when she started her “Project Christmas” in 2015. But she now keeps the Christmas clutter out of her living room and in New Jersey storage units, where she organizes and packs items for the holidays.
Lego Collection Turns into Christmas Donation Effort
Several years ago, Evans had no idea she’d be playing Santa to dozens of her neighbors in crisis. Disabled and fighting a genetic disorder, Evans started collecting secondhand Legos and other toys for her son to distract herself from everyday pain.
“I was sorting and organizing all these Legos, so we could eventually build all these cool things,” she said. “I collected a massive amount of other toys, like matchbox cars and building blocks, so I posted on a (social media) group to see if any families in need wanted the toys for Christmas.”
And one family reached out on Christmas Eve.
“They said ‘We have nothing for the kids this year,’ but I couldn’t just show up with used toys,” Evans said. “So I put a call out on other Facebook groups for more donations. We ended up with a truckload of stuff for the family, including mom and dad.”
So Evans showed up at their home at 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve, just like Santa would…only with a truck instead of a sleigh.
“The wife said it was the first time she’s seen her husband cry, and they’ve been together for 20 years,” Evans added. “I figured if we could get that many donations in one day for one family, then we could help a lot more people with more time and effort.”
Since then, she’s been able to help more families every year. This year alone, she helped 10 families with 26 kids total!
“We even collect Christmas trees, ornaments and everything else for families who need it,” she said.
Organizing Donations in New Jersey Storage Units
While Project Christmas keeps growing, Evans’s space at home remains the same: Very limited. This year, she decided not to burden her family with piles of donations, and instead she turned to a nearby New Jersey Public Storage to store, sort and box the gifts before the holidays.
“Our house is not that big, and before you couldn’t walk through it until the stuff left the house,” she said. “Now we’re able to sort it close it home without causing a mess.”
Throughout December, Evans and her family drop off the donations in a large, drive-up unit at the facility, and then sort the donations in a separate unit upstairs.
The affordable rent and convenient access allows the family to get their donations ready to go for Christmas Eve delivery.
“She has her entire family out there helping her, and they work for hours,” said Amy Dowling, a Public Storage manager at the New Jersey location. “She’s very enthusiastic about what she’s doing, and I think she’s already preparing for next year.”
Evans had a waitlist of neighbors hoping to get presents through Project Christmas this year, so she has no plans to stop her efforts any time soon. In fact, she would love to help even more families next year.
“I intend to do it as long as possible,” she said.
Evans is accepting donations through her GoFundMe page, which go to purchasing toys, food and clothes for the families, she said. In-person donations are welcomed, and Evans can be reached through her website and Facebook page.
Photos courtesy of Kristie Evans.