A small part of a huge event
Jolene and Mike Schreiner have seen firsthand the joy a small gesture can bring to someone in need. And with the joy they bring to others, they receive a gift themselves. That's why the Alexandria couple volunteers every year with the Jingle Bells telethon.
The Schreiners got their first taste of helping with the telethon, which provides food and toy baskets to those in need every Christmas, in 2002. That year, they were assigned to deliver the food baskets to people's homes. It struck a chord with both of them.
"When we took those deliveries, it was a mixture of feelings," Mike said. "You don't think about the poverty locally until you do that [deliver the baskets] and see it firsthand."
Jolene, too, was particularly affected by one woman who lived in a tiny little one-room house.
"It was so small. All she had was that one room," Jolene recalled. "It hit home."
Knowing that the telethon is put on each year by the Jaycees, the Schreiners both decided to be a part of the organization - whose goal is to help others, especially youth. They also thought belonging to the Jaycees would give them the opportunity to meet other people and interact with people in their age group.
From 2003 on, Jolene and Mike have played an important role in ensuring the success of Jingle Bells. Their main duties involve routing and distribution.
In the weeks prior to the telethon, the Schreiners gather all the food/toy basket requests and enter them into a database. Then they send that information to a printing company, which prints an individual note card for each recipient.
The Friday before the telethon, they gather with other volunteers and organize the cards into routes. On the Sunday after the telethon, they distribute the routes to the volunteer drivers.
In addition, Jolene is the treasurer for the Jaycees, so it is her job to collect the donations, make deposits, and other bookkeeping duties - a job that continues for several months after the telethon.
While routing is their main job, during the telethon, there is no limit to the tasks they help with. They are available for anything that needs to be done - from helping the talent register to speaking on-air during taping.
The Schreiners estimate that throughout the year, they each spend about 60 volunteer hours with Jingle Bells, with the majority of those hours the week prior to and the weekend of the production.
Luckily, they both have wonderful parents who live close by who are willing to help take care of their 5-year-old son, Nicholas.
"It's a commitment away from your family," Mike said. "You have to be willing to give that up."
Mike and Jolene can't stress enough how their help with the telethon is "just one tiny little part" of a huge undertaking that requires hundreds of people, a year of planning, and countless hours logged in not only by members of the Jaycees, but the entire community.
"We could not do this without the community's support," Mike said. "It would not be possible."
And with the help of the community, the Schreiners, in turn, can help those in need during the holiday season - a job that they intend to do every year, even when they are no longer Jaycees members (membership is open to people through age 40).
"The reason I do this is because it makes me feel good to volunteer and see other people get something back," Mike said. "It's not about us, it's about others in need. You see the looks on their faces and their reactions. It's real emotional."
"They look forward to you coming, they say thank you. Some people even cry," Jolene concluded. "You made their day. Sometimes even their year. Seeing those people in their time of need...that's why we keep on doing it."