Above: Amy’s Holiday Party founder Amy Sacks Zeide spreads the joy amid the blur of activity at the packed Ramada.

Twenty-one years after she donated her time and her bat mitzvah gift money to throw a holiday party for 25 children at an Atlanta shelter, Amy Sacks Zeide was back at it Sunday, Dec. 4, leading 400 volunteers in providing a special celebration for 850 youths, from infants through teenagers, and their families at the 22nd Amy’s Holiday Party.

Adult and teen volunteers in white and tie-dyed T-shirts, including 64 Jewish teens participating in the Leadership Development Program run by Zeide’s nonprofit organization, Creating Connected Communities, guided the partygoers through a series of rooms full of fun and giving at the Ramada Plaza Capitol Park Hotel, close to Turner Field downtown.

“We doubled the size of our event space this year, allowing for even more guests and volunteers. We were so worried that the weather would deter guests from coming, but we were thrilled that it didn’t,” Zeide said. “We couldn’t be more grateful to the Ramada Plaza Capitol Inn Hotel for hosting this event and allowing us access to their spaces even though they were also doing construction. The beginning is always the busiest, but seeing how excited the volunteers and guests are to be there and watching their faces light up with joy when they experience the different components of the events is priceless.”

Families who trudged in from the cold and rain walked out a few hours later with garbage bags stuffed with their share of 2,000 gifts, shoes and socks from Fleet Feet, crafts from Home Depot, and other items, including photos with Santa Claus. Mellow Mushroom provided 3,000 slices of pizza, and the kids, many from shelters, foster care or other protective agencies, got to play video and carnival games.

“It makes me really happy to see the smiles on their faces,” said Audrey Kaye, 15, a Walker School student who is part of CCC’s Leadership Development Program and was volunteering at the party for the second time. “It makes you feel good inside.”

Zeide said, “We work all year long on all of CCC’s programs and especially Amy’s Holiday Party, and it is always such an honor to be able to provide these programs for our community and to engage so many passionate teen volunteers in direct outreach work.”

Photos by Michael Jacobs