A Christmas tradition has family handing out gifts on Massachusetts Street

From left, Tyler Sloyer, Scott Sloyer and Rachel Sloyer were delivering 40 gift bags to people on Massachusetts Street Monday morning, Dec. 23, 2019. Their family tradition is to give gift bags to those they encounter who may be homeless or in need.

The three people loaded with red gift bags looked like last-minute shoppers Monday morning, but instead of bringing the presents home they were handing them out to strangers they encountered on Massachusetts Street.

Scott Sloyer and his adult children Tyler and Rachel began the tradition of handing out gifts to those who may be in need when they lived in St.Louis. They brought the family tradition to Lawrence when they moved here three years ago.

“Every year we go up and down Mass. Street and hand out the gift bags that are filled with a blanket, two pairs of socks, a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo and snacks, ” Scott Sloyer said.

The family puts together 40 gift bags and spends about $15 per bag. They try to reach as many people as they can. They have heard from recipients that the socks are the most appreciated item.

Scott Sloyer stands on a corner Monday, Dec. 23, 2019, in downtown Lawrence with his son, Tyler Sloyer, behind him. The Sloyer family has a tradition of randomly giving gifts to strangers who may be in need just before Christmas.

The Journal-World was tipped off to the good Samaritans. They were not out for any attention; in fact, Scott Sloyer said they would prefer that no one knew. However, if their random acts of kindness encouraged other families to do something similar, he was OK with being noticed.

Gary Woods, a homeless man, sitting on the sidewalk with his sleeping bag and backpack, had received one of the Sloyers’ red gift bags.

Gary Woods was a recipient of a gift bag handed out by the Sloyer family on Monday, Dec. 23, 2019, in downtown Lawrence.

“I can use the stuff,”  said Woods, who sleeps outside every night. “I have no family, no home, no ID.”

People sometimes give him things, he said. A week ago when it was snowing in Lawrence, he watched a couple walk out of The Burger Stand at The Casbah, 803 Massachusetts St., and drive away. They came back 30 minutes later and gave him a new pair of leather work gloves.

Bowen Boyack, a local street musician who dresses like Santa during the Christmas season, was a recipient of one of the Sloyers’ gift bags on Monday, Dec. 23, 2019, along Massachusetts Street.

Outside the Toy Store, 936 Massachusetts St., Bowen Boyack was playing the trombone dressed as Santa. The Sloyers’ left a red gift bag by his open instrument case. They were gone before the year-round street musician could say thank you.

“I was playing ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ and I was only on Day Seven, so I couldn’t say anything,” Boyack said.

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