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  • Writer's pictureMegan Stuke

Party with a Purpose

Pre-shopping Party Shot!

Traditions are the coolest when they're unintentional. When one year you wake up and go "Hey, we've been doing this thing for, what, five, six, nine years now?" and you realize you'll never be able to stop. It's a Thing now, and life wouldn't feel quite right without it.

The holidays bring a lot of forced family fun and often we try to force traditions. I am a resistor of convention at a cellular level, so my kids have never enjoyed an Elf on the Shelf because I see it as a fake or forced tradition. I've never tried to come up with traditions for my family around holidays and special occasions. Instead, I like to just hang out and see how things shake out. Usually, its my kids who tell me what our traditions are before I realize they've happened. "Hey Mom, will we be having my friends over for a sleepover on New Years Eve like we always do?" And I go, "We always do that? Oh, apparently we do." And a tradition is born. "Hey Mom, are we going to the movies on my birthday afternoon and skipping school like we always do?" Oh. I guess I've done that too. So it's a Thing now.

In 2014 I graduated from Leadership Lawrence and my class decided it would be cool to adopt a bunch of families for Christmas, but in true Leadership Lawrence style, we wanted to make it a party. So we invited our loved ones and friends to pitch in and we rounded up some good sorts who donated drinks and food and we went out en masse to shop for folks in our community who need a little boost and then we came back to eat and drink and wrap presents and get ourselves really into the spirit of the holiday and the giving season.

It's 2019 now, and our little party of maybe 70 people that adopted 5 families with a budget of $70 a person to spend has blossomed into a tradition. It's a tradition that included over 150 people this year. Those 150 people paid for and shopped for 37 individuals from 14 families and collectively raised (and spent) well over $6000.

Five years of this event, which we call the "Party with a Purpose," I think makes it a tradition. Crown Automotive has been kind enough to lend us the space for this for a few years because, well, we outgrew Lucia - a downtown bar where the party started.

It's a low-stress event. Everyone comes happy. EVERYONE is merry. It is so dear to me - to see folks just happy to be out and doing something good on a Sunday afternoon. I get the best comments after. People THANK me for giving them the opportunity, and I know they mean it. It's simple and it's community at its most true sense. It is a genuine way to be our best selves. This year the weather was truly frightful, but they came anyway. And they shopped, and wrapped, and listened to music and chatted and bonded and at the end we hauled the bounty to The Willow where families will be able to pick up a gift from the community - given to people they have never met. And the folks who receive can know there is love and care for them in this place. They are not alone.

I have thrown many fundraisers in my day. Most of them, after a few years, lose their lustre. We move on to newer, more innovative ideas. But this one is a tradition. It doesn't need a thing, except the folks who come and do it. I think we'll keep it for a long, long time.

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