Volunteers help wrap up Christmas for shoppers

December 24, 2005|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

People were lined up at the gift wrapping table near Bon Ton 15 minutes before the wrapping was supposed to commence.

"We got here at 9:45 (a.m.) to set up and there was already a line of people," said Joan Bowers, a volunteer wrapper for the local American Red Cross chapter. "We weren't supposed to start until 10."

For years, the Red Cross has pulled volunteers from around the county to wrap gifts at Valley Mall. They don't charge for the service, but there is a recommended $1 to $2 donation.


Many department stores already offer gift-wrapping services for their customers. Bon Ton shoppers who spent $60 or more at cosmetics counters got a complimentary gift box, an iridescent red frame with a metallic golden ribbon.

The concept was a winner for the store's male customers, Bon Ton General Manager Jim McFaul said.

"Guys have been lining up around the counter," he said.

Bowers, who was at the wrapping station in front of Bon Ton, said the volunteers get a variety of shoppers. She said the scene gets a little more interesting as it gets closer to Christmas.

Two days before Christmas, volunteer Cathy Watkins sprawled a sheet of red wrapping paper in preparation to wrap a blanket - one rolled into a neat log, like a plaid, flannel Twinkie.

As she wrapped, Watkins explained that most stores were out of boxes, so volunteers were getting creative.

"We have one guy out getting us some boxes," Watkins said.

By the time she finished, the gift resembled a giant piece of neatly wrapped holiday candy.

Watkins, who represented First Data, volunteered with her daughter and her brother, Tommy Atha, who came for Century 21. Atha brought his three children, Watkins said.

Watkins said there were eight people waiting for them when they started wrapping gifts near the food court. She estimated she had wrapped around six or seven gifts an hour, putting the group's grand total somewhere around 50 gifts by the end of their four-hour shift.

Back at the Bon Ton station, Bowers said her team had wrapped around 50 gifts by 11 a.m. Friday.

Bowers feverishly wrapped several packages - in boxes - as she explained that she is a representative for Edward Jones investment firm in Hagerstown and said that every year, she and her staff volunteer for the Red Cross gift-wrapping station. Bowers said she also brings her family for extra help.

"It's so much fun," Bowers said. "It really gets me into the spirit."

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