While most families celebrated the holiday season by giving gifts to members of their family or friends, the Hastings family have a unique tradition of giving gifts to strangers.
Allison and Doug Hastings of Sequim have been donating gift bags to newborn babies and their mothers every holiday season over the last 13 years. As their two daughters McKenna, 14, and Kendall, 12, got older they became involved in the family’s tradition, too.
The Hastings donate gift bags filled with items such as baby clothes, baby toiletries, blankets, toys and a gift for a new mother to the birth center at Olympic Medical Center every year where the bags are distributed anonymously via hospital nurses to three newborn baby boys and three baby girls.
“When we started it, it was just out of the goodness of our hearts to feel like we were accomplishing something,” Allison said.
The family — including Allison’s parents — buys items for the gift bags during the year and then work together to sort and fill the gift bags to distribute every holiday season. Each gift bag has about an $80-$100 value that comes from the family’s own pockets and some donations from family or friends.
The Hastings’ gifts of love came after Allison’s brother was stationed abroad in the military for many years and she found it expensive to keep exchanging gifts with his family. One year, the siblings and their families decided to give to local charities of their choosing instead of exchanging gifts.
“We decided instead of exchanging presents, let’s go and choose a charity of our choice and use the money and purchase gifts,” Allison said.
When the Hastings started donating gift bags to the hospital, it was the Christmas after their oldest daughter McKenna was born at OMC. The Hastings were new parents at the time and it was brought to their attention by one of the nurses at the hospital that many families with newborns at OMC are low-income.
“There are a lot of low-income families here not able to have basic supplies,” Allison said.
“I thought that (donating gift bags) would be a fun thing to start.”
The Hastings chose to remain anonymous for many years because they wanted to give privacy to mothers and their newborn babies. Both Allison and Doug are longtime employees of Sequim School District and have a high probability of knowing some of the families with newborns and didn’t want to make any families feel uncomfortable.
This year, however, Allison said she and her family finally had an opportunity to meet one of their gift recipients.
“This time when we dropped (the gift bags) off, one of the nurses said ‘would you like to present one to a family and we said sure we would love that,’” Allison said.
“She contacted us and said they had one more bag left and a family consented so we were able to present one of the bags to a new mom and her baby.”
The Hastings met with new mother Vanessa Navarro and her baby boy Flores, Allison said. She added that Navarro was still deciding on a name when the family walked in to give Navarro and her son their gifts.
“She was very appreciate of it,” Allison said.
“It’s been a fun thing.”
Allison said she and Doug want to focus on other people while raising their two daughters and it’s been a fun project for the family to participate in year after year.