We did it! This year was another successful year for Team A.A.O.K. as we brought Christmas to over one hundred unsuspecting families with the help of selfless sponsors and volunteers. Like previous years, this year had its challenges. We put in long hours and you donated your time and money to help complete strangers in need. Finally, last Monday, we got to see the fruits of our labor.
A few fun facts from our 2017 season:
- Team A.A.O.K. sponsored 103 families with a total of 339 children.
- There was an average of 3.2 children under the age of 18 per household.
- 35% of the families in need had a primary contact that was Spanish speaking only.
- 47% of our sponsors were “repeat” sponsors and have worked with A.A.O.K. before.
- Out of everyone who signed up to sponsor a family, there were 20 companies that got involved.
We’ve been receiving a ton of photos from Sponsors after they met and delivered gifts to their families. I’ve included all of the photos that we’ve received so far below. If you have pictures you’d like to share, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
With the help of our partner Que Images, we were able to document some of the fun from our Christmas Eve delivery day at One Las Vegas. You can find the rest of the Christmas 2017 photos in our photo gallery.
Every year we learn from the previous years and try not to make the same mistakes while we continue to grow. We learned a lot this season and wanted to share some of the changes we plan on making next year:
- No more emailing fact sheets. Email has always been the easiest way for us to communicate with such a large group of people at the same time. We’ve been doing it for six years but we acknowledge the fact that we need a better process. When we send fact sheets via email they sometime end up in the recipients junk inbox or spam mail. As a result, the fact sheet is never received, causing a snowball effect. In addition, it leaves too much room for error and it’s not the most efficient way for us to confirm that all information was received and all questions have been answered. We’ll be working hard over the next 360+ days to have an online system built to help us manage the overall workflow and moving parts. As this is a non-profit organization, if anyone is or knows any programmers or developers that would like to help the cause, please have them contact Brian@aaokvegas.com.
- We need to diversify our volunteers. Considering the fact that 35% (almost half) of the families in our program this season were Spanish speaking only, we think it’s safe to say that having one Spanish speaking volunteer will not suffice. Lesson learned.
- Incomplete fact sheets. This year we encountered a lot of fact sheets with missing information or not enough detail as to why the families are in need. We’ll be working with our community partners to ensure as much detail as possible next year. We’ll also be implementing an approval process where all fact sheets will be reviewed and must be approved before being sent to a sponsor.
- Gift storage facility. For those who were out of town and unable to bring your gifts to us on Christmas Eve, or for those who wanted us to deliver for you…we realize that a four hour time slot on one day may not be enough. Next year we’ll work on having a location secured for the entire week leading up to Christmas.
- Stick to the deadlines. This is the most important of all. Next year we’ll stick to strict deadlines to ensure that we receive information on all 100 families and have them ready to distribute to sponsors no later than Thanksgiving. Our late start this year had a residual effect on the overall operation.
These are just five areas where we will strive for improvement out of a mile long list of notes we took this year. For anyone who decides to participate again next year, we ask you to embrace the changes…they’ll be great!
Thank You A Million Times.
We usually try and refrain from giving specific shout-outs for one simple reason – we don’t want to forget anyone, because there’s a lot! This entire program is built off volunteers from our internal team to our sponsors and more. With that said, everyone deserves a big THANK YOU.
Volunteers: We’d like to thank all of people who aren’t necessarily affiliated with A.A.O.K. but donated a tremendous amount of time to make this Christmas extravaganza possible. This includes everyone who helped us make calls, send emails and deliver gifts. It includes those who baked cookies or offered their photography services. It includes those who booked space for us to store gifts, wrap gifts or those who simply helped us keep our heads on straight! Thank you.
Community Partners: We’d like to thank our community partners, who are the unsung heroes of this program. Our community partners work with families in need all year round. When Christmas time comes around, they identify the families that are most in need and spend a lot of time contacting them, gathering their information and getting it over to us to ensure the family has a special holiday. On top of that, the partners help facilitate communication between us, them and their sponsors, sometimes making calls or answering questions daily from October until December. Without these partners and their thoughtfulness, this program wouldn’t exist.
Sponsors: Finally, our sponsors. You are some of the most selfless people we’ve had the pleasure to meet. You sign up and volunteer to spend your time and hard earned money on complete strangers that are a little less fortunate over the holidays. Every year we see sponsors go above and beyond to make what was already a nice gesture extraordinary. We can only hope that you’re getting as much out of the overall experience as they are. No words can express our gratitude for what you do.
It’s always an insane ride from October to December as we aim to help others in our community. In addition to working full time jobs and having families of our own, every year it’s all hands on deck and strangers come together to commit amazing acts of kindness. Thank you for being a part of that.
Wishing you a happy and safe new year. We look forward to doing this again next year.