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Our Holiday Traditions: Handing out comfort kits



The Eister-Hargrave family enjoys giving back to the community.

PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON

When she was 6, Ruby Eister-Hargrave was really into ABBA, so her mom got nosebleed seats to Mamma Mia! at the Paramount Theatre.

They were walking through downtown to the show when Ruby saw a person holding a sign: “Hungry. Can you spare a dollar?”

“She just looked at me and was like, ‘Mom, what do we do? What do we do?’” says Leah Eister-Hargrave. “And I said, ‘Well, we can give the guy a dollar.’”

That answer didn’t satisfy Ruby, so she and her mom brainstormed ideas about how to help, specifically looking for things a kid could do.

“We wanted to make sure the people we were helping felt helped and not condescended to,” Leah says.

A friend suggested making sandwiches and handing them out at intersections. Ruby took the idea and ran with it. Leah remembers how Ruby kept coming up with more things: “It’s almost Christmas; let’s make cookies. I want to make a picture and put it in. It’s really cold out; can we put something else in there?”

Ruby filled 35 Ziploc gallon bags, each one containing cookies, a card, clean socks, hand warmers, sandwiches and a water bottle. Along with her mom, her brother and a friend and his mom, they drove all over town handing them out. They stopped along the Pike-Pine corridor on Capitol Hill and walked under the Alaskan Way Viaduct, giving out kits to people setting up for the night.

“It was all really, really nice,” Leah says. “All the people we handed off to were friendly and grateful and so sweet to the kids. And the kids were so excited.”

After handing out the last bag, they wrapped up the holiday spirit experience by driving around and looking at Christmas lights.

The Eister-Hargraves dubbed the project Ruby Cares, and they have carried it out almost every winter since. Ruby, now 13, is very industrious about making packages. Her brother, Wyatt, 9, isn’t so into the assembly-line process, but he’s more outgoing. “When it comes time to hand them out,” says Leah, “he’s the one who jumps out of the car first: ‘Hey! I have something for you!’”

In all the years they’ve handed out comfort kits, Leah says they’ve only experienced one or two times when someone said, “No, thanks.”

The family, who lives in Queen Anne, asks for donations from friends and has received toothbrushes and toothpaste, hand sanitizer and socks. One friend made 60 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and brought them over. Another mom friend started making comfort kits with her own kids.

“It just snowballs,” Leah says. “For us it was important to recognize people who are having a hard time — to recognize that they are human beings just like us. It feels nice to have this interaction. You’re having a hard time, and it’s Christmas. We hope this makes you feel good.”

Silly or somber, elaborate or simple, every family creates their own unique ways of finding joy and warmth in the midst of winter. Our annual Seattle's Child tradition is to share your holiday traditions so we can celebrate and rejoice together that every family in our community is a one-of-a-kind creation forged from the past and building a brighter future for our kids.

Read about more of our family holiday traditions and holiday happenings here.

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