Guest Editors: Charlie and Tasha Batch share their ultimate holiday tradition
Every Pittsburgh family has holiday traditions. We may bake cookies from our grandmother’s recipe or light a menorah that’s been in the family for generations. We may cut down a Christmas tree at the very same farm each year or always watch the same movie on Christmas Eve. Our traditions give the holiday season a special meaning, especially for families like Charlie and Tasha Batch.
For Charlie and Tasha, and the army of volunteers at their Best of the Batch Foundation, the holiday season begins early each year. And it stays incredibly busy and full of meaning right up until the wee hours of Christmas Eve. Their family tradition has touched the lives of thousands of Pittsburghers and it has grown every year since 2006.
This remarkable project is called the “Batch A Toys” annual holiday drive. But it goes far beyond gifting toys to children. And its message of loving and respecting our neighbors is truly grounded in the spirit of the season. As we celebrate the importance of holiday traditions here at Kidsburgh, we’ve asked Charlie and Tasha to serve as our “guest editors” this month.
They’ve inspired us with their year-round commitment to their fellow Pittsburghers, and they’re helping us celebrate the holiday season by inspiring all of us to do more to help others. Busy as they are right now gathering and wrapping gifts, we sat down with our guest editors for a conversation about their ever-expanding holiday tradition.
We’re excited to share with you this conversation with Charlie and Tasha Batch.
Kidsburgh: You have many programs happening at Best of the Batch Foundation all year long. Tell us: How did “Batch A Toys” get started?
Charlie: As we worked with children and their families throughout the years, we noticed a consistent, increased need for support around the holidays. While many organizations provide assistance around this time of year, we wanted to feel more connected to the families we are serving throughout the process. We were intentional in including guidance counselors, social workers, and community organization leaders who know family dynamics in our process. With their help, we can provide personalized gifts to each child and feel confident that we are reaching the right families.
Tasha: This is year number 16 for our Batch A Toys program, and we have reached over 5,000 children and families in that time. This particular year, we have “adopted” over 161 families which roughly comes out to over 700 children served this Christmas.
Kidsburgh: That’s a huge project. What are the weeks leading up to Christmas like for you both?
Tasha (laughing): Every day in December is bonkers. Our Clubhouse truly transforms into Santa’s workshop! Donations arrive each day- we’re getting boxes of silverware, pots and pans, sets of dishes and glasses for our household items, and many, many toys of course!
Kidsburgh: What inspired you to start offering not just toys, but all of those necessities that families need?
Tasha: In speaking with families, school leaders, and other community organizations, we heard about some of the necessities families were sacrificing to buy uniforms for school, groceries, or to pay bills. One year that solidified this service for us was when a little boy wrote Charlie a letter. He said, “Mr. Batch, thank you so much for all my toys…but most of all, thank you for my spoon because I can eat cereal now.” This little boy lived only four blocks down from our Clubhouse. We refer back to that as our mission moment every year- we look at spoons differently now.
Kidsburgh: That must have been a powerful experience for you both, and for your team.
Charlie: Absolutely. We are a very small team that becomes family- especially around the holidays. Batch A Toys has become a holiday tradition not only for me and Tasha and our extended family, but for our team and their families as well.
Tasha: Doing this type of work around the holidays has been great in removing volunteers from their “bubble”- allowing volunteers to find an appreciation and respect for families who may not share the same privileges or resources that they do. It can be a very eye opening experience that motivates volunteers to seek out additional ways to provide support throughout the year and to motivate their kids to be service leaders.
Kidsburgh: If parents aren’t sure how to talk to their kids about difficult topics that may arise during service like this, for example homelessness, what’s one tip that you would give to a parent that’s trying to figure out how to teach their kids and have them authentically listen?
Tasha: For the parent that’s trying to teach about these things, I would ask: Do they understand it themselves? Do you know somebody with that experience or do you feel comfortable to educate yourself about that experience? The more you learn yourself, the better you can teach your kids.
Kidsburgh: What is your favorite part of the Batch A Toys holiday season?
Tasha: The volunteers are what always keep me going, because out of all the meaningful and inspiring causes to give your time to around the holidays- they consistently choose us. For many of our Batch A Toys volunteers, our wrapping parties have become a tradition for them as well! We hear so many special stories, like a family whose father first got them involved in our wrapping party years ago. When the father passed away, the family continues to come back each year and volunteer their time in his memory. Our volunteers are truly at the heart of this program.
Charlie: Our final delivery stop on Christmas Eve is always at the Women’s Center and Shelter, which Tasha and I deliver personally each year. It means a lot for us to be able to deliver to a place that holds such a special place in our hearts together. Then the race is on…
Tasha (laughing): Our personal holiday tradition is to race home after the final delivery to see who can sit on the couch first and get the freshest slice of Cenci’s Pizza.
Kidsburgh: Sounds like a much-needed treat after a month of hard work! If our readers want to learn more about and help with the work you’re doing, how can they get involved?
Charlie: This year we are seeing an increased need for gifts for boys and girls ages 10-18. There are many drop-off locations through the city where people can donate- they can visit our website to find the closest locations to them!
Tasha: Our website also houses the links to our Batch A Toys registries for all our online shoppers. We need volunteers all year round- take a look through our website and see which of our 13 programs you’re interested in and reach out. We’d love to make Best of the Batch your family’s new tradition!