Each December morning, the children run to the kitchen, swing open the pantry door, find their special shelf with the numbered food items, and toss the correct item into the nearby cardboard box.

Everet Widtfeldt, 4, and Juniper Widtfeldt, 2, are more excited to count down to Christmas day using their “reverse Advent calendar” than the traditional, magnetic Advent calendar hanging on the fridge.

Everet and Juniper are the children of Quadel Manager Helena Widtfeldt. This year, she and her husband decided to try one of the internet’s viral ideas – the “reverse Advent calendar” – to teach their children about giving back to those less fortunate.

The idea is simple. Count down to Christmas by placing a pantry food item into a box and donate the goods at the end of the month to a local food bank.

“This year is particularly important. My husband and I have been reflective on how lucky we’ve been that neither of our jobs have been significantly impacted by the pandemic. I want my kids to understand that they are fortunate in that way, and when you have good fortune you should share it with others,” Widtfeldt said. “I’m curious to see when we drop (the box) off if Everet understands what it means. I don’t know if he will connect all the dots, but I am looking forward to him being a part of it.”

When the Widtfeldt family walks down the street to the local church food bank in the Boston area on Christmas Eve, the box will have 24 different pantry staples. Most are items used in traditional holiday meals such as canned vegetables, stuffing, and boxed mashed potatoes.

While the Widtfeldts helped feed their local community this holiday season, they took the time to spread some Christmas cheer to its littlest residents, too. They “adopted” a 5-year-old girl through a local non-profit that serves at-risk youth. With a $100 spending limit, the family browsed the child’s wish list.

“(Everet) got really excited because she wanted a little kid digital camera and a LeapPad®. He has a LeapPad® and thought it was really cool that she wanted one of those. He has a camera on his Christmas wish list, too,” Widtfeldt said. “We had money leftover so he used the interests on her wish list, unicorns and animal print, to pick out special items for her. He is still talking about the unicorn gummy candy making kit we purchased. He thought it was the coolest because he’s very interested in cooking, and it combined his interests with hers.”

And while this holiday season may be unique with its challenges, stresses and uncertainties, Widfteldt is certain about one thing: giving back to the community will be a tradition for years to come.

“(Giving back) has always been something we’ve done. We’ve adopted families in the past, and make donations to organizations important to us each year but, it’s just something I did and didn’t involve the kids,” Widtfteldt said. “It was a nice opportunity to bond and spend quality time doing something that wasn’t about us and to have that conversation about how fortunate we are and to give to others.”

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