The volunteers of the Rhode Island Chapter of Hadassah started their occupation of the charity booth in front of JC Penney at the Warwick Mall on Dec. 15 and didn’t pull up stakes until Christmas Eve.
The ladies volunteer their time and gift wrapping expertise every year to raise money for medical research at Hadassah Hospital in Israel.
The women come from all over the state to wrap, from Narragansett, Newport and Lincoln to Pawtucket, Cranston and East Greenwich.
Started in the early 1970s by the Pawtucket Chapter of Rhode Island, the women work to box, bow and create mini pieces of artwork with paper, scissors and tape.
The Pawtucket women would make ribbons and bows several months before the December wrapping. It ran as a smoothly oiled machine.
Over the course of the almost 40 years this program has been in place, they have raised almost a half-million dollars for Hadassah.
Judy Silverman, from North Kingstown, has been chairperson of the gift wrapping event for several years and says every year it is harder to get volunteers.
“Unfortunately, many of our regular wrappers are away or unable to help this year. As with any organization that is volunteer-based, around the holidays it’s hard for people to squeeze in any extra time to help,” she said.
"I am grateful for the time that everyone does give," she added.
The women will wrap anything a person can imagine.
They have wrapped everything from assembled bicycles to vacuum cleaners, to even the most unusual item, such as a tire.
There are even “regular” customers who come to the booth year after year to have their purchases attended to.
“Originally, I had one gift wrapped because honestly, I was too lazy to do it myself,” said Brian Minden, a repeat customer of eight years.
“Once I started talking to the ladies about why they volunteer, and the work that the organization does, I started bringing more and more presents to them. Now, I count on them to do it all for me. I would be in big trouble if they weren’t here,” he laughed.
Warwick Mall graciously donates the gift-wrap station space every year.
The station will be set up in front of JC Penney daily until Saturday, Dec. 24 at 5 p.m.
Hadassah is the Women’s’ Zionist Organization of America.
Established in 1912 by Henrietta Szold, Hadassah founded, owns and supports two world-class medical centers in greater Jerusalem.
Hadassah is the largest Jewish organization in America, and one of the largest women’s volunteer organizations in the world, boasting 300,000 members.
They are currently planning their centennial celebration in Israel for June 2012.
For more information about Hadassah, the works they do, or membership, check out www.hadassah.org.