Every year, residents of the Weinberg Housing and Resource Center have the opportunity to create a wish list filled with the things they want or need most. Then, instead of mailing it to the North Pole, they turn it over to Nick Jacobsen and he finds just the elves to help.

Jacobsen, the volunteer manager at the low-barrier emergency shelter, sends the lists to a host of volunteers who have offered to fill the requests, ensuring each resident receives a personal gift over the holidays.

The COVID-19 pandemic scattered clients from the shelter’s Fallsway location in Baltimore to several hotels in and around the city. Across two days in mid-December, Catholic Charities staff will distribute presents to each of those sites, serving 154 clients and any that move in before then, and host a catered holiday meal that pulls residents together.

Not just about the gifts

Jacobsen said the human connection created through the meal and door-to-door gift delivery is invaluable, particularly at this time of year.

“It’s a shared experience and [residents] feel like that have more than just a perfunctory connection to staff and stakeholders in the community,” he said of the celebration. “It’s the idea that someone sees them and expresses care … that someone respected and listened to them.”

Restrictions imposed because of COVID-19 have made the holidays even harder for those who feel isolated.

“A lot of people, even before the pandemic, did not have the means or ability to see family, friends or loved ones,” Jacobsen said. “After the lock-downs, people voluntarily or involuntarily feel less able to leave their room, place of residence, or city. This year, it means a lot for people to have a shared experience and feel seen.”

How to help

Supporters interested in the center’s Adopt-a-Resident program can start the process by filling out the form available here: https://tinyurl.com/WHRCgifts2021. Wrapped and labeled presents must be dropped off at the Holiday Inn Express Baltimore at the Stadiums by Dec. 13 so they can be delivered to residents.

Filling a resident’s wish list is not the only way to provide support to the Weinberg Housing and Resource Center over the holidays. Jacobsen said the center is also preparing to help residents move into permanent housing, particularly as pandemic-related restrictions ease, and is filling housewarming baskets to help their transition. A list of household items needed as residents move into a new home is available as part of the center’s wish list.

For more ways to give – and some holiday joy – please visit Catholic Charities’ Comfort & Joy site.