ALBANY PARK — Local group Israel’s Gifts of Hope is collecting donations for the group’s Thanksgiving gift baskets for families who’ve lost someone to gun violence.
Community members can donate their time to put together the gift baskets and donate items like chocolates, snacks and personal care products. The Lincoln Square & Albany Park chapter of Moms Demand Action, a grassroots organization working to end gun violence, is inviting people to bring donations and help make baskets 7 p.m. Thursday at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, 1757 W. Wilson Ave. People can also donate via Amazon or follow the Israel’s Gifts of Hope Facebook to learn more about how to contribute.
The Aragon family founded Israel’s Gifts of Hope in 2018 in memory of Israel Aragon Jr., who died from gun violence at 21. The first Thanksgiving after he died, neighbors made the family a gift basket, said his sister, Dalia Aragon.
“That had such a big impact that we then decided that we should do more,” she said.
That pushed the family to start Israel’s Gifts of Hope. In the program’s first year, they gave out about 50 baskets, Aragon said. Last year, they distributed about 170. She’s hoping for over 200 this year.
Each one is full of items like popcorn, chips, candles, fuzzy socks, coloring books, bath bombs and tea.
“The little things that make you feel like you can take care of yourself,” Aragon said.
Over six years of giving out gift baskets, Aragon’s seen many people who haven’t been impacted by gun violence come together to support those who have. That’s powerful, especially because navigating grief and the lack of societal support is often isolating, she said.
Gun violence “can happen to anyone, and we all have to be part of the solution. But we also all have to be part of the healing process,” she said. “If we come together and we do things like this and we can respond to the hurt that happens as a group as one, then we are more resilient.”
Aragon also hopes to build community another way: restarting the Israel’s Gifts of Hope tradition of hosting a Thanksgiving dinner when giving out the gift baskets. The pandemic forced a halt to the meals, but the dinners created a warm camaraderie that she wants to bring back, Aragon said.
“A safe space for people to share their stories, share their memories, honor their loved ones, celebrate their lives,” she said. “That’s very, very powerful in a time when I think a lot of us who have been directly impacted feel a little hopeless or feel the pain a little bit more deeply. Because our holidays do look different.”
Families can sign up to receive a basket in a myriad of ways, including by emailing Israel’s Gifts of Hope at email@example.com or messaging the group on social media. Aragon hopes to set up a Google Form this year but said people can still reach out using whatever platform they’re most comfortable with.
Though Israel’s Gifts of Hope hasn’t yet set a firm date for basket distribution, Aragon said the group is tentatively aiming for Nov. 18 or 19.
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