WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — We are approaching the holiday season, a hard time for those who’ve recently lost loved ones. Places like EveryStep, home of Amanda the Panda, try to make things a little easier with their “cheer boxes,” but are needing help this season.
Usually Amanda the Panda relies heavily on donation drives at places like schools or offices to be able to fill their cheer boxes for families grieving this holiday season. Instead, like many other nonprofits, it is having to turn virtual, relying on monetary donations or things like an Amazon Wish List to get by.
“Having that simple option just to jump online, just having that opportunity there to be able to do that with a click of a button and just send it right to our doorstep,” Amanda Fagan, program assistant for EveryStep said. “We have been seeing those come in more, which has been really helpful, and just doing this the safest way possible and getting those donations to us.”
EveryStep admits it’s behind on its donations compared to what has been collected in the past. This year, despite the pandemic it’s trying to deliver 500 cheer boxes across the state. Right now, it is in need of items like candles, blankets, puzzles, games, and picture frames. All items that can help support those grieving the loss of a loved one, which may be even more difficult this year, with the pandemic changing the grief process for many.
“It’s been a difficult year just to gather and you know have the normal family events, or funeral, and that sort of thing, just to be able to honor and remember your loved one. So finding those ways to still grieve and, and finding that comfort it’s been an especially difficult year with that,” Fagan said. “Just knowing that someone’s out there thinking of you while you’re grieving and that support is out there can be really helpful.”
Still, people are finding ways to help. Katie Gonzalez, the owner of Elias and June in Indianola, is donating handcrafted candles for every one she sells after her father and grandpa received cheer boxes following the loss of her grandma.
“They were super shocked and excited because someone came all the way from Des Moines to deliver it. They got some really nice gifts and one of them in the box was a candle,” Gonzalez said.
It’s a part of her “Purchase with Purpose” collection and it runs through mid-October.
“I just feel like hospice and grief, they’re not really talked a lot about. So it’s like, people have funerals and you’re there to come for that person, but then as time goes by those people kind of dwindle away,” Gonzalez said. “I just think it’s important what Amanda the Panda does. They send the boxes at Christmas time to just remind them that there’s somebody here that cares for you and just so they’re not alone.”
Not only is EveryStep accepting donations at this time, but it is also accepting nominations. If you know of someone who has lost a loved one in this past year and could use some cheer this holiday season, nominate them here.