The last food box is being delivered even as I type. The last bag of joy should be arriving at the final stop in just a few minutes. This year, Santa didn't arrive in a sleigh and suit. Instead, he came wearing blue jeans and driving a red (we got lucky on the color) pick up truck or came in the form of one of our volunteers in a mini-van or small car. But come Santa did. Tomorrow, 32 kids from 16 families are going to have presents for Christmas. I can’t help but smile as I picture the kids excitedly ripping wrapping paper and squealing with surprise.
True to our tradition of helping the most in our society each these families fell through the cracks in the existing system. They either could not drive the distance to other help agencies or did not know about them in time for the cutoff dates. None of these families are strangers to domestic violence and all are local (except two children who are no longer living with mom or dad.)
Also, we took active crisis calls, answered other calls, helped a homeless couple and a recently homeless couple, distributed Angel Food, worked with 5 juvenile offenders, provided ongoing support to 2 victims of sexual assault, sold raffle tickets and held an eBay sale to provide job skills and to try to pay rent (didn't make it, still trying) and meet expenses including the phone bill (that was close!) in addition to everything else.
We didn't do this alone. We couldn't have. It has been said "to heal a community it takes a community". That's what we had here. I couldn't be more grateful for the support and am in awe of how everyone chipped in to make hope happen.
Food boxes left from the distribution of another organization were brought to Hope for Healing.Org. We were able to partner with Strawberry Plains Presbyterian Church and with Strawberry Plains United Methodist Church to distribute food boxes to other families. Angel Food boxes were sponsored by people who care. The Straw Plains Market and Angie's Deli helped us make raffle tickets available. (Raffle ticket sales were doubly important since funds from the state are delayed making our bills overdue).
It was through the tickets that one of our new clients found us. She was badly in need of services when she came through the door. Now, she has support and knows she is not alone anymore. Plus, after a referral form was received, her child now has Christmas and they have food to eat.
Friday, our volunteers and I were looking at our inventory of donated stock. We wondered if we would be able to supply the Christmas demand. It didn’t look good but we hoped for the best. We need not have worried. A dad with a pick-up truck load of toys pulled onto our tiny lot that afternoon. His family was familiar with what we do and wanted to help. These toys were all gently loved but looked and felt new. All were heartily welcomed by our clients. Then another person from the community came bearing items and was followed by another. By the day’s end we felt better but were still a little nervous.
Again, people came through. As we were carefully eyeing our inventory guess who should appear? The kind people from Baileyton United Methodist Church came with toys and clothing. They were all previously owned but in excellent condition. Even after a church fire they still found the means to help us. Wow.
But there were other surprises in store for us too.
One of our Sevier County community members didn’t hesitate when she heard about children we were trying to help. She brought a tree and presents for two of our families who were most in need of help. We had never met her before and were thoroughly impressed with her kindness.
Juvenile offenders and teen volunteers distributed Angel Food. One of the moms of one of the offenders took me aside and told me their story. Falling on difficult times, she wanted to know about getting a box for her family next month and asked about her son staying on as a volunteer since it seemed to be good for him. We were glad to be able to help with the box and look forward to having him as a volunteer.
After the distribution, a teen volunteer stayed to help with another project. The Strawberry Plains Community Alliance Events Committee needed cookies. The teen said she had never made Christmas cookies before and eagerly dived in. We’re glad to have been able to give her the experience. They brought cheer to the committee and to the volunteers at the office.
All in all, it’s been a busy month. I’m still a little concerned about the bills but somehow, I just know it will all work out. After all, we’re not here alone and I thank you for all of your support.
Have a very Merry Christmas!
Founder & Executive Director
Hope for Healing.Org