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Gifts With Meaning

Volunteer Voice - Winter 2011

Task Force Enjoys Fun, Profitable Season

Each year, the Volunteer Services/Children’s Art Project Task Force sales generate many heartwarming stories, and 2011 was no exception.

One patient came to specifically purchase a new Art Gallery Wooden Tray. His 
plan was to ask his girlfriend to marry him by serving her breakfast on the tray, complete with an engagement ring.

Volunteers Yvette Matuszak (left) and 
Almas Hamir get in the holiday spirit by 
selling Children's Art Project cards and 
gifts at the annual Volunteer Services/
Children's Art Project Task Force booth 
in the Clark Clinic lobby.

In another case, a young couple and their 18-month-old son shopped and said how grateful they were to 
MD Anderson and what wonderful memories the task force booth evokes.

Their story was about their son and discovering that he had cancer at the same time they became aware he was blind. The child had surgery at 
MD Anderson before he was 6 months old. A year later, when he reached for a snow globe at the task force booth, they learned he could see again.

And in another tale, a young mother came to speak with a volunteer who had worked at the booth the previous week, not realizing that the same volunteers didn’t work every day. She wanted to thank the volunteer, who helped her daughter purchase a stuffed lion.

Though the volunteer who had helped her before was not there, she told another volunteer that her daughter had died during the night and that the lion was with her. This mom wanted to thank the volunteer for the kindness she showed her daughter.

All of these experiences and more added up to the most successful task force year ever.

Patients, caregivers and employees came ready to shop when the task force opened for business on Oct. 3. They continued shopping through Dec.16, reaching a grand total of $208,400 in product sales — a 20% increase over 2010.

Long-standing partnership

Volunteer Services and the Children’s Art Project (CAP) have a long history of service together. In fact, until 1999, CAP was a project of Volunteer Services.

Although they’re now separate areas within the Division of Public Affairs, the two departments continue to work hand in hand on special projects.

Fall marks the time to get ready for the holidays. Volunteer Services and CAP come together to form the task force, selling the latest holiday collection of cards and gifts.

The task force was established in 1987. Staffed by volunteers, as well as 
MD Anderson volunteer employees, cards from the Children’s Christmas Card Project (as CAP was called then) were sold from early November through 
mid-December at various locations throughout MD Anderson.

Sandy Gomel, manager of retail operations
for Volunteer Services, sports part of her
collection of task force buttons from years

Wayne McHatton, associate director for Volunteer Services business operations, reports that in 1993 the task force was still a volunteer-run program called the Children’s Christmas Card Project Employee Task Force. Sandy Gomel, now the manager for Volunteer Services retail operations, was a volunteer at that time, and joined fellow volunteer Shirin Blackwell to lead it.

In a note to their volunteer coordinators, Ann Smith and Margo Cannom, they set the 1993 sales goal at $20,000 (the actual sales were $31,521). The memo also mentioned that one 8-foot table was used for merchandise, “but an additional 4-foot table would be nice to have for next year.”

At that time, the task force participated in CAP’s annual holiday kickoff parade that wound through parts of the Texas Medical Center. To get everyone in the spirit, Gomel and Blackwell donned angel costumes and walked with the “Angel” card design in one of the parades.

Still going strong

For the past few years, CAP products have been sold in The Aquarium lobby of Clark Clinic and in the Mays Clinic West lobby. In 2011, 47 volunteers worked weekly four-hour shifts, totaling approximately 1,500 hours in the two locations.

Volunteer Services and CAP celebrated an excellent sales year in 2011. New products such as domino necklaces, flower magnets, travel bags and numerous ornaments drew customers to the lobby sales.

Sales proceeds return to MD Anderson and CAP to fund special patient amenities. It’s a holiday gift for everyone.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center