SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A decades-old tradition in Scranton is helping to put a smile on people’s faces while teaching kids the value of volunteerism.

The dining room at Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen in Scranton is transformed into an assembly line, as these members of area youth ministry groups take part in the annual Shoe Box Project.

This project has been taking place annually for the past 36 years but came to a halt when the COVID-19 Pandemic hit.

“This is the first year in about 2 years that we’ve all gotten together to do this hands-on,” said Stephanie Grudis, a St. Francis of Assisi Board Member.

175 shoe boxes will be filled with toiletries then wrapped and given out on Christmas Day.

“I always say those that can give, should. Help somebody out, why not? A shampoo, a razor, toothbrush it goes a long way,” Grudis continued.

Handmade Christmas cards from students at John G. Whittier Elementary School are also included in the packages. From the boxes to the toiletries to the wrapping paper, all of the items are donated.

About two dozen student volunteers from all over the area, were there to help, not just to prepare Christmas gifts, but to emulate the teachings of the organization’s namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi.

“So this brings together an opportunity for young people who are richly blessed in their experience of family and experience of life and it puts them in connection with people who are not,” explained Robert Williams, of St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen.

Reduce stress, increase happiness, develop confidence, find purpose, inspire giving, teach appreciation, and improve self-awareness.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, volunteerism can reduce stress, increase happiness, develop confidence and help you find a purpose. For kids, volunteerism can inspire giving, teach appreciation, and improve self-awareness.

“It’s my first time here in person. Last year were filling them in our parish. Makes me feel pretty good that I get to help my community,” said Tanner Corkins of Gouldsboro.

“It makes me feel good. It’s good knowing we’re making someone’s day,” added Paige Rivers of North Pocono High School.

“I think this is good to help children in need and have a merry Christmas,” stated Aiden Rivers of North Pocono High School.

In addition to the shoeboxes, 25 gift cards will be distributed to children who visit Saint Francis of Assisi Kitchen on Christmas Day.

Saint Francis also has a free clothing store and food pantry.