The “Merry Malden” Christmas Drive took place from December 4-17 to help match families with toys, clothing, and gift card donations. Dawn Macklin, along with the help of Councilor Amanda Linehan, Malden Neighbors Helping Neighbors [MNHN], Mayor Gary Christenson, Councilor DeMaria, the Senior Center Greater Malden Asian American Community Coalition [GMAACC] and the Malden Teen Enrichment Center have contributed and worked with the drive.
The Zonta Club of Malden has also helped by supporting seven families. “The Zonta Club of Malden has been our biggest partner and the generosity of our local neighbors has been amazing,” stated Macklin, the Chief Organizer of Merry Malden.
Merry Malden was very successful, with at least 40 families paired with local neighbors. Macklin stated that on December 13, “Malden Neighbors Helping Neighbors and the Greater Malden Asian American Community Coalition [had] matched 60 more families.”
Amanda Linehan, Ward Three City Councillor, said that “The Zonta Club of Malden by itself donated in excess of $2,000, which [they] immediately utilized to fulfill wish lists for at least 30 families, and countless members of the community have stepped up with major monetary donations, gift cards, brand new winter coats and gloves, warm clothing, and toys for all ages.”
Using COVID-proof dropoff steps, volunteers and donors were able to help by donating gift cards and meeting most expectations for families.. On December 20 and 21, volunteers spent the weekend sorting and distributing for almost eight hours, so gifts could be received by families. “We expect we have served over 200 households through this drive and we asked members of the community to focus on gift cards and Venmo donations instead of cash or checks, and when toys or clothes were donated, they were kept in isolation until the delivery dates in the week before Christmas,” stated Linehan. The gift cards donated included Amazon, Target, Stop & Shop, Walmart, etc..
City Hall Staff and Facilities Director, Eric Rubin, created contactless and pandemic-safe drop off areas in the City Hall Lobby and vacated the Senior Center for delivery days. Linehan gave credit to Malden Teen Enrichment Center Director Cathy Macmullin, “for lending [them] her crew to monitor the drop-off location during business hours, securely store items, log them each evening, and help with deliveries.”
The Merry Malden Christmas Drive not only followed COVID-19 protocols but was also referred to about 60 families in need, since MNHN was already helping distribute food and medicine on their own. Linehan explained that they “received referrals by phone and email and also through the Malden Neighbors Helping Neighbors mutual aid network,” which were “ were already “in touch with more than 60 families that needed help either buying gifts for their kids and grandkids or finding new winter coats and warm clothing this winter.”
Linehan added that, “[they] could [not] have done this without the expertise of Karen Colon Hayes, Malden's Director of Human Services, who shared not only her experience coordinating similar drives in past years, but gave her time on the weekends to open the senior center as our coordination center and made dozens of connections to families in need, including some who are unhoused this winter.” The Merry Malden Christmas Drive was also successful this year with the guidance of Macklin, who “set an amazing system in place that we can easily replicate in future years,” expressed Linehan.
Macklin fulfilled families’ needs who wanted to remain anonymous to their ‘adopters’ for privacy reasons. She did so “in a way that empowered parents and caregivers with dignity and the confidence of knowing they could focus on enjoying the holidays without worry or stress,” Linehan voiced. This year, the Merry Malden Christmas Drive did not have to turn any families down but, in the future, the drive is going to begin earlier than the 2020 drive to ”maximize the drive's potential,” explained Linehan.
Overall, the Merry Malden Christmas Drive was a success with the help of the Malden community for making any donations possible to “make the holidays bright for every single neighbor who needed help” said Linehan. The drive decided to keep the winter coat donations from the 2020 holiday drive open throughout the month of January.