Bogan continues Christmas delivery tradition at House to Home
PARKERSBURG — Skylar Bogan never let her youth, life changes like going to college or any other obstacles that popped up stop her from delivering shoeboxes full of snacks and supplies to the clients of House to Home over the last decade.
So a global pandemic wasn’t going to stop the tradition either.
Bogan, mom Amber Holbert and boyfriend Devan Barker took 100 shoeboxes to the Eighth Street day shelter serving the homeless and economically disadvantaged Wednesday. Some clients were outside to help them unload, but, because of COVID-19, they weren’t gathered inside for the annual Christmas meal.
“When we got there, it was a little bit weird,” said Bogan, a junior at Ohio Valley University. “There weren’t as many people as there normally are.”
During the pandemic, clients have had to adapt, said Jessy Towner, director of operations for House to Home. They can still come in for things like taking showers or using the computer, but they can no longer just hang out.
“When they come in, it’s one at a time,” Towner said. “You’re checking their temperature at the door, making them wear the masks.”
Figuring out how to continue to serve and do so safely has been a process of trial and error, she said.
“We didn’t get a handbook for a pandemic,” Towner said.
On Wednesday, board members boxed up Christmas meals and handed them out at the door. With Bogan returning with the shoeboxes and other items, “this place was booming,” Towner said.
Clients look forward to the visit by “the Shoebox Kid” every year, Towner said. Bogan started bringing donations at age 10 after spotting tents people were living in under the Fifth Street Bridge.
The pandemic changed the preparation process for Bogan and her band of helpers. Peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches weren’t an option, so they switched to prepackaged Uncrustables instead. Unable to make the sandwiches or fill the boxes at the information systems offices of WVU Medicine Camden Clark Medical Center, they assembled everything at their Parkersburg home.
They started packing Tuesday night, after Bogan got home from her retail job.
In addition to the usual hand warmers, socks, gloves and snacks, this year’s boxes included smaller toe warmers, deodorant and, of course, hand sanitizer.
“We just get to add new things every year,” Bogan said.
She received more monetary contributions, many by PayPal, than specific items, likely another result of the pandemic.
“We had so many more donations than I thought we were going to have,” Bogan said.
A last-minute contribution allowed them to purchase additional toothbrushes Wednesday when they realized they were 15 short. Despite the shopping detour, they were “only a little late” to the day shelter, Bogan said.
Bogan has filled and donated 1,300 shoeboxes over the last 11 years. Her travel softball team this year packed bags for kids with stuffed animals, toys and handmade blankets. A donation of some collectible Barbie dolls was an added bonus that allowed one client to mark her two granddaughters off her Christmas shopping list, Bogan said.
Bogan plans to make a Facebook page for her efforts to centralize information and donation collections as she looks forward to continuing the tradition in 2021.
“It’s not Christmas until we’ve done the boxes,” she said.
Evan Bevins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.