For the 23rd year, Amy’s Holiday Party, put on by Creating Connected Communities, provided fun and toys for children in need. The party was Sunday at the Ramada Plaza Atlanta Capitol Park Hotel.
This year, more than 1,000 children were recipients of more than 2,500 toys, 3,000 books and an afternoon of entertainment and joy.
Amy’s Holiday Party started when a 12-year old Amy Sacks Zeide heard about gifts that were stolen from a local homeless shelter. The next year, she decided to do something about it.
“It actually started as my bat mitzvah project in 1995 when I was 13 years old,” Sacks Zeide said. “Every year after that, the agencies would keep asking us to be involved and more and more teens would like to be involved.”
A far cry from the 25 kids at the first holiday party, the event is now a massive undertaking, requiring hundreds of volunteers, including more than 400 teens, many of whom are involved in planning the event.
“We were finding that all these teenagers between eighth and 12th grade are looking for meaningful opportunities to give back and feel like they were impacting their communities, so we bring these two groups together,” Sacks Zeide said.
Jeremy Weiner first volunteered for the holiday party in eighth grade, and now, as a senior at , is one of the 80 Jewish teens on the Leadership Development Program who help to organize the event.
“In LDP, we have monthly meetings and monthly events,” Weiner said. “We learn about the poverty line, about underdeveloped communities, and the people right outside our own door who are struggling to make it day-to-day.”
Weiner explained that the holiday party, in particular, was always a special event.
“Yes, it feels really good to do something for someone else, but I’ve also learned a lot about myself, and I’ve learned what I want to do when I get older,” Weiner said.
The most popular room at the party was, without a doubt, the toy room, where children take turns pairing up with a volunteer and combing their way through tables stacked high with different choices. Options range from dolls and action figures to footballs, headphones and everything in between.
Beyond the toy room were games galore, activities like face-painting and cookie decorating, and bouncy castles and slides, as well as a dance floor and DJ, and rooms for moms and dads as well as babies and teens.
A parent who brought her daughter to the event, Anna Grant, explained that she was astounded by the size of the party and that the biggest issue she was having was convincing her daughter to leave.
“I’m looking for her right now. She was with two other girls and her [teen volunteer], so I know she’s having an amazing time,” Grant said.
Rita Philson, who brought five grandchildren with her, agreed. “I’m really surprised; I’ve been in Atlanta forever and did not know this existed,” Philson said. “They’re in heaven. I would definitely come back again.”