SOUTH PORTLAND — A lot of frenetic wrapping has been going on at the Maine Mall in South Portland this holiday season – and things were in high gear two days before Christmas.

Since Black Friday, volunteer gift wrappers have been providing a bit of bliss to shoppers – mostly men – who don’t have the dexterity or patience to bundle up Christmas presents for their loved ones.

On Monday night, a group of volunteers from Unified Technologies, a Portland-based company, manned gift wrapping tables that had been set up outside the entrance to Best Buy. A crowd of shoppers, nearly all of them men, waited patiently while Tricia Richardson and her co-workers wrapped presents for them.

Richardson, who is vice president of marketing for Unified Technologies, described the atmosphere as hectic with few, if any, breaks in the gift wrapping process.

Anyone who uses the service is encouraged to make a donation, though it is not required. All of the proceeds from Monday’s event benefited Easter Seals Maine.

“Nine of every 10 people who come here are men,” Richardson said. “People are just so thankful. They tell me they don’t care how it looks. They are just glad it has been wrapped.”

Wrap for a Reason is sponsored by the Maine Mall and Maine’s Coast 93.1, a Portland radio station. Stephanie Millette, a spokeswoman for the Maine Mall, said the annual fundraiser is expected to bring in about $18,000 by the time the service ends on Christmas Eve.

The donations benefit charitable organizations such as Easter Seals, the Make-A-Wish foundation, Woodfords Family Services, Family Crisis Services and Safe Passage.

Millette said the Maine Mall buys all the wrapping supplies. She expects that the supplies, which she purchased last summer, will be gone by Tuesday night. The day after Thanksgiving, the mall’s gift wrapping storehouse included 200 rolls of wrapping paper, 150 rolls of Scotch tape, 1,050 boxes, 1,200 gift bags and 900 bows.

Volunteers come from all walks of life. Their ranks include nonprofit employees and their former clients; handlers of service animals; Scout troops and radio personalities.

Millette said most of the volunteer gift wrappers have been women.

“We don’t have the skills,” said Matt Dyer of South Portland, who stood by while Richardson wrapped a gift for his girlfriend. “That’s why it’s all guys here tonight.”

“When they open these presents they’re going to know it was not my wrapping job,” said Phil Jimino of Saco.

Jimino said he was doing some last-minute Christmas shopping for his wife and his mother.

“I’m not detailed enough when it comes to wrapping presents,” he said.

Tammy Lewis, a service coordinator at Unified Technologies, was in the midst of wrapping several presents for a man who offered to place his index finger on a present that she was tying with a ribbon.

“Don’t worry. I only tied one guy’s finger in a knot,” Lewis said.

Lewis said she likes helping other people during what can be a hectic time of year.

Chelsey Brown said there is a lot that goes into wrapping the perfect present. She had just finished wrapping presents for Tim and Tracy Constantine of North Waterboro.

“She did a great job – much better than I could have done,” Tracy Constantine said.

Brown works as an administrative assistant at Unified Technologies and is considered to be a premier gift wrapper by her co-workers.

Brown offered the following tips for wrapping gifts:

Make sure you have a tape dispenser at the ready. Trying to rip tape off a roll can result in tears and tape getting stuck to the roll.

Try not to use too much wrapping paper. It’s best if you can position the present on top of the wrapping paper and cut it to size rather than guess how much paper you may need.

Use a lot of tape to make sure the paper doesn’t come unwrapped.

Don’t be afraid to use ribbon, because it can enhance the way a gift looks.

Be sure to use a sharp pair of scissors, which can make cutting the wrapping paper a lot easier.

If at all possible, put a present in a square box. It will be much easier to wrap.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]


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