What is Club YES?

cropped-download18.jpgWow! For those of you who know us….WOW! What a journey we have all been on these past three years and for those who are just learning about us then I am so happy you are here. There is not doubt in my mind that you have been searching and that is why God led you to this specific page at this specific time. If there is one thing we have all learned to trust in, it is Gods perfect timing. We see it all the time being in a ministry like this! Club YES (youth empowerment services) is a mobile ministry for homeless and in need youth all over Middle Tennessee. We started two years ago around this time (Thanksgiving) when I was running another community outreach called The Cupcake Crew. We worked with schools and organizations to organize community service projects for kids in order give back to local heroes. Right after Thanksgiving I received an email that will FOREVER change my life. It was from the ESP (extended school program) Director. We had worked with that school many times before but this time she was asking for very specific help. I was so naive at the time but that particular school had almost 50 homeless students. She asked for help because when they casually asked them what they wanted for Christmas, the children gave them answers they were not expecting! One boy asked for someone to eat lunch with him, one boy wanted someone to throw the ball with, two sisters wanted their nails painted. In reality they didn’t want “stuff”. They wanted love and time with someone. THIS BROKE MY HEART! We received the email on a Friday afternoon and I cried all weekend. With the power of Facebook we have 50 plus people eager to help by Monday. We didnt know exactly what we would do but we knew we had to do something! Well now we are two years into this mission and we seem to change and grow and do whatever is needed at anytime.

Club YES is a mobile Christian ministry giving schools, counselors, shelters, churches and individuals resources to help these kids that often fall through the cracks. We learned that even with so many resources here there are hundreds of kids going hungry, going without clothes or shoes that fit or even a bed to sleep on! Why? Well most resources require the parents seek out the help or they require personal information. Thats where we fit in. We fill the gaps for the kids and we find the kids forgotten to let them know that they are loved by God and their community. Schools and organizations can contact us with needs and if we are able to,  we will fill those needs with no personal information needed. We hear from teachers constantly with students who smell from lack of hygiene care or their shoes are duck taped on to their feet or are going hungry on weekends and school breaks when there are no regular meals being provided. Thanks to our 24 hour supply closet and our relationship with Feed America First and our amazing volunteers we can deliver right to the school! Below is a list of current projects and services offered! We are a grass roots, community effort and we are 100% volunteer based meaning none of our board is on a payroll. Your donations are used to go towards helping these children eat, receive clothing and most importantly the gospel. We post lots of activity on Fabcebook so dont forget to like us!

Sunday Mornings:

We teamed up with The Experience Community Church. They host breakfast in the park on Sunday Mornings for the homeless, many of them sleeping in our local woods. We host the Childrens Church area and are out there regardless of the weather, often needing to provide coats, blankets, hats, etc to keep these kids warm.

Monday nights:

At least every other Monday Night and often a few times a week we work with the kids at the emergency mobile shelter, Way of Hope. We provide field trips, play dates, bible studies, meals and more to help these kids who sleep on the floors of different churches each night.

Thursday nights:

We teach a bible study class for 2-5th graders through Inner City Ministries at Stones River Church of Christ

Friday Mornings:

Feeding Fridays! We pick up from Feed America First and work with local school counselors to get food to children who would go hungry over the weekends. During school breaks we deliver to the children ourselves and have regular routes at local motels, campsites, shelters, etc…

Safe House:

Sometimes there are situations where children may need a night or two in a safe place and we are able to open our homes to them even if its just a slumber party and a nice break from the shelter or motel.

Christmas:

This is the time of year that started it all for us and we have a very fun and unique tradition! We host Operation Christmas Cheer and surprise the children who are without any presents. Santa and a caravan of 12 or more cars make their way around Middle Tennessee and visit the kids left behind to give them back the magic of Christmas! Can you imagine? Waking up to nothing and then…wait….whats that…….is that…it’s SANTA! On Christmas Morning! We will see hundreds of children  who were not signed up for adoption programs and face dangerous situations on a daily basis. We hope to give them some joy in life again and hope through our Lord and Savior and help in any other ways needed.

24 hour supply closet:

We keep clothing, shoes, toys, toiletries and food on hand 24/7 and it is available to any child in need with no paperwork or personal info needed. This service is often used by shelters, social workers and teachers.

We follow the Holy Spirit daily and work togehter to further his kingdom and to care for His children. These are just some of the paths he has us on currently. If you would like to help by sponsoring monetarily or volunteering or donating needed items like clothing please click on the contact us link or txt Tairra at 615-796-8001

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He lives under the bridge and is more giving then most….

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Once and while you meet people and share experiences that shape they way you view the world and they forever stick with you. I wont lie, I seem to have many of those moments but that I had last week will stay with me forever! I really can’t get it out of my head and I know you will be blessed by this story…so here it goes:

My children and I were running some errands for Club YES and they were really hungry but I didn’t have any cash on me so I called a friend at a local soup kitchen. I like to go there and help the kitchen manager out and he provides us with bread and bakery goods to give to children in need. It was about to be lunch time there, so we thought we would come and help serve and  my kids could eat afterward. At first the kids were a little nervous playing waiter and waitress but they quickly started to really enjoy serving everyone their meal of spaghetti and meatballs, green beans, garlic bread and chocolate chip cookies. while my daughter Regan was serving one gentleman his lunch he tried to tip her a five dollar bill. She tried to decline politely but he refused to take no for an answer and ended up tossing the money towards her since she would not come take it from him. She graciously picked it up and went over to him, shook his hand and said “thank you”. He told her that she was doing a very good thing serving everyone their meal today and he wanted to do something to give back too.

After the children served the meals we went in a small connected room and waited for everyone to finish. We were soon joined by a sweet woman who is 67 years old and has suffered two brain hemorrhages. I know this because she reminds me every time we see her. She was telling the children that she had a horrible singing voice before the brain hemorrhages but afterward she could sing like an Angel. Then she started to sing praises to God. It was so cute and I chuckled to myself because you could hear the joy she received from singing praises to God. Of course it was not the angelic voice she may think she has but maybe it wasn’t the quality of her voice she was referring too, maybe it was the attitude in which she sang it that was Angelic. As we were sitting and listening to her sing that gentleman, David came and sat with us. We thanked him one more time for his generous tip. He was very hard of hearing and mumbled when he spoke. I think he was somewhere between 50 and 60 years old but the sun and so much time outside has aged him and it was hard for me to tell how old he was. Because of his hearing loss he often though we were saying things different then what was actually said and we would have to repeat ourselves. He thought he heard our sweet “angel voiced” friend say that she was broke. She did not say that, but he blurted out “your broke?, oh hunny, let me help you”. Here is a man who is homeless, gave $5 to my daughter for serving him a meal that we were so happy to give him and now he is pulling out every little scrap piece of paper from his pockets to find his very last $5 bill. He handed that woman his last $5 and she held it in her hands and began to weep. Her face crinkled up and her singing stopped and with so many “thank yous” she sat there and cried. I didn’t know what to do but hug her so I put my arms around her, then my 3 year old followed, my 8 year old and then my 11 year old son said “I need a hug too” and gave her a big hug which made her cry even more. It was so touching and sad at the same time to see him give away every last little bit he had to people who were “more fortunate” then him. She soon left to go to her apartment and it was time for my children to get their lunch.

David followed us into the dining room and sat at the table next to us. We started talking and I found out that he has been living under a bridge for the past two years. I was instantly nervous for him because just 3 days prior a homeless man was beat to death in that same area. As we sat there he opened up his back pack which had his whole life inside it. He pulled out a camp pack which is basically a large zip lock bag filled with things you could easily eat if you were living on the streets or camping. This was supposed to be the food to help him survive. He pulled out a pack of crackers and a small bag of cheese its and gave them to my youngest daughter. Once again we tried to not take it but he refused to take it back and really wanted her to keep it. Once again it was so touching and sad at the same time. The kitchen manager gave my children a box of fruit snacks and they were so thrilled to open it and share it with David. At first he didn’t want to take it but once he saw hat it was a pack of fruit snacks his face lit up and he said “this is the good stuff!”. When my children saw that he liked fruit snacks they quickly grabbed a hand full and made sure David kept them.

My kids finished lunch and we cleaned up and said goodbye to David. My kids were so touched by him and my oldest being eleven and having a little more understanding was very concerned for that sweet man. I asked them if they would like to give him a present. I noticed his backpack was very worn and starting to tear so once home we grabbed a backpack from our supply closet and packed two shirts, a notepad of paper, some pencils and pencil sharpener, soap, shampoo and a pack of razors. My daughter drew a picture of a kitten on a white paper lunch bag. Inside the bag she put a couple snacks and $7, then she tucked the bag inside one of the zipped up pockets for him to find later. She also wanted to pack him a small stuffed animal and of course, she stuffed one of the pockets full of fruit snacks.

David has the back pack now and he said he found a job. I haven’t seen him since but we think about him every day. I can’t begin to describe the feeling you get to see someone give literally everything to others who had more then him to begin with. He took so much joy in being able to give. What a lesson we could all learn from Mr. David.

Help feed a local hungry child for Summer break! 2014

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It’s hard to think of children going hungry here in Middle Tennessee, especially when we have programs like the Rutherford Summer Feeding program where any child 18 or under can go to a local school and get a free meal. But let me give you a little insight into the BIG picture and why too many children are forgotten. The children who are in the most need of programs like the Rutherford Summer Feeding Program cannot make it there. All too often we see many different circumstances that prevent children from getting to places that can feed them. We see all kinds of stories from families not having transportation to families are struggling with issues like drugs or alcohol and are not in the mind set of helping these children get to feeding programs. It breaks my heart to know that children are forgotten and going hungry during Summer Break which should be one of the most fun experiences of a child’s year. Together we can fill that gap! With the help of school counselors, social workers and our volunteers we find the children who face these issues. We then go shopping for them and deliver food to them each week to ensure they are full, happy and if there are any other needs we can help with those too! They do not need to get to another location. We can take it right to the child whether it is a motel room, campsite, car, etc. Along with the food we can give small toys, activities, prayer, on the spot children’s bible studies and most of all LOVE. This effort cannot happen if we do not have the support of our community! I went shopping today and for a little less then $16 I was able to get a modest amount that would feed a child for a week. We will need quite a bit to feed these children for Summer break which starts May 22. Please help our efforts and make a donation or simply share this information with your friends! Click on the donate link on our website or you can contact Tairra at 615-796-8001 and send a check payable to Club YES.

My classy reaction to the 13 year old mall rats

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It was a Saturday and my husband and three year old daughter and I had a very fun and tiring day! We got home from a long morning out in our community and they both crashed out! I wish I could have napped with them but you know how us moms are, we lay there thinking of everything that needs to get done! Well, a nap wasn’t happening for me so I got up and wanted to get some work done but with all the sleepiness in the house I needed a change of scenery. I thought to myself “why not bum off the wifi at the mall, relax in a corner booth and treat yourself to a yummy flavored coffee”. Sounds relaxing right? Well I must admit, at the age of 34 I have forgotten what a mall may look like on a Saturday afternoon. I get to the mall, walk into the bookstore to purchase my coffee and then enter the cafeteria of the mall and it was like I entered another dimension! I have never seen so many rowdy teens in one area. Not to mention it was also prom night. Doing what we do I am always around children so no biggy. I don’t mind the sounds of kids playing and laughing. This may actually help me work……right? Well I guess I am used to being around kids when they know I am listening. Being around kids, especially young teens when they think they are all alone with their friends and they don’t know your paying attention is a WHOLE ‘NOTHA LEVEL.  I sat in my corner, pretending to work real hard as I started ease dropping on three young teen boys three tables away from me. I was shocked! They were trying to talk to every girl who passed by which is normal, okay, I get that. They were telling girls their friends had AIDS, herpes, M*Fer was every other word the used. Their conversation got more vulgar and more daring as they got going. I tried to pretend like I didn’t notice but I will admit every time they said something extra crazy I would glance over there in hopes they would be embarrassed and dis-continue. I noticed that every time I did there was one out of the three boys who would see me notice, then kinda hang his head. He was also the only one of them not really participating in the bad behavior but rather just sitting there. I started feeling this “push” on my soul…if that makes sense. I began having this inner dialog with myself. “you should go over there and talk to them”, “I dont wanna, plus I’m here just working minding my own business”, “NO you really shouldn’t just let this opportunity  pass by and you should be a witness to them”, “But they are young and I’m just gonna look like the old creepy person”, “I know you don’t want to but you NEED to”, “but, but, i don’t wanna!”. I sat there doing nothing. The more I did nothing the more my heart started pounding out of my chest. I knew God was pushing me to do something and the more I didn’t do it the more it was becoming obvious that I needed to suck it up and do it! While I sat there I remembered a time I was at the very book store I had just bought and incredibly sweet white chocolate coffee from. I was waiting for my husband to get out of the bathroom and I was sitting next to another father and we both had our kids near us. These teens walk in and they were not very shy about their conversation. They were opening talking about sexual experiments that I had never even heard of before. These are things I cannot repeat here and it was incredibly saddening that these children were not only talking about it but comparing notes. I felt that push then to talk to them and I never did anything about it! I turned my head like everyone else and didnt do a darn thing! I still think about that and wish I could go back and have a re-do. I didn’t want this to be one of those times so I got up. I started to walk over to their table as they look at me and even though I just really wanted to pass them and get another coffee, I sat down with them instead. Since I am just flowing with class and elegance my introduction to them went something like this: “I happened to be listening to your conversation and I run a non profit that works with homeless children here in Murfreesboro. I figured that if you have time to sit here and curse and talk to girls about sex and AIDS, you may have enough time to come and volunteer your time to help others”.  One of the boys asked me what Volunteering was as the other boy snickered and the one boy who was obviously embarrassed by their behavior just sat there quiet. I started letting them know about how many children their age are homeless here in their own city (they were 13). I also asked them if they were Christian and went to church. I told them that their parents probably wouldn’t be happy about their behavior and that if they took the time to really help others with AIDS, or other ailments instead of joke and make fun of them, that they could really make a positive impact on their community. I gave them our groups phone number and asked them to talk to their parents and call me if they would be allowed to come volunteer with us in a local shelter. I was surprised when their snickers turned into concern and they started asking me questions about the children, the shelters and different ways they can help. Then here is the kicker that probably totally embarrassed them, I asked them if any of them would like to pray for us! They all, almost in uni-sum, took a deep breath and quickly shake their heads no. I figured that so I asked if it was okay if I prayed with them. As I sat there praying with them another loud teen came to the table as one of the three boys hushed him and told him that we were praying. He stood there and prayed with us till we were done. I told them to call us and then I got up and sat back in my little corner, pretending to work once again as I ease dropped. I was certain they would move booths, but they didn’t. More teens came and they only moved to a table closer to me. They still laughed and goofed off but I noticed their conversations took a turn for the better. The numbers of kids around 7-8 pm at the mall only increased. I was surprised. There must be at least 100 young teens all around 13-14 years old, alone with no parents. I know how it appeared. A bunch of “hooligans” taking over the food court. It was like that in the 80’s and apparently nothing changes. Kids just being kids, right? Well what would happen if we were all Christians just being Christians and we didnt give into the worlds morals and we didnt allow ourselves to be callus to the things around us, but instead we took the time to help others and spread the good news even in times when its uncomfortable or we feel like “minding our own business”. Its been a couple days and I haven’t heard from these boys yet but I am hopeful. If God wanted me to open that door for them then it was for good reason. I hope my story has inspired you to be bold and talk to others about your faith and pray when you feel that push, and believe me if you pay attention you WILL feel it. Pray and invite God’s Holy Spirit to use you for his purpose. Fully give in your own plans and ideas for those of the One whom created you, just be prepared for the answer. 😉

 

Baby Jeremiah-homeless on his birthday – updated!

Close up of crying African newborn babyToday was a special day for many moms all over the world just like it was for me in 2003, 2006 and 2011. New moms are exhausted and joyful as they welcome their new child into the world. Today was such a day for a first time mother. I had never met her till I walked into her hospital room only to interrupt her breast feeding her first son for the second time. Even though I was a stranger she welcomed me into her room with the biggest smile as she held her new son like a pro! I remember with my first child I felt like I had no clue! As we were waiting for our mutual friend to arrive we talked about the baby and she asked if I would like to hold baby Jeremiah. I was thrilled! Of course I said YES! He was perfect! Silky light brown skin, dark blue eyes and a head full of thick dark hair. You could tell his eyes wanted to stay shut but he struggled to open them and get a glimpse of everything around him.  His mother was so brave! Her first child and she did everything natural and didn’t complain. I told her how brave she was and calmly said, “well God was with me the whole time”.

Why would I be barging in on strangers breastfeeding right after birth you may wonder? And why would they be so happy that I did? Jeremiah and his mother are currently homeless. They were staying at a local shelter but are now sharing a very small motel room with another homeless family that already has three children. After meeting Jeremiah and his mother I realized something. It doesn’t take a mansion or even a “normal” home to be a good mother and have a happy family. It takes love and strong faith. Both of which I can tell this young woman has. I’m sure this is not the situation her or anyone would want to raise a child in but I know this young man is blessed with a wonderful mother no matter where they stay. I pray for this new family and every new mother blessed with a child. Some children are blessed with homes with many rooms filled with things and yet their heart is still empty. You can not always measure someones life by what you see on the outside. No one should be homeless, especially a child but everyone deserves a wonderful parent just like we all have in our Heavenly Father! Happy birthday baby Jeremiah and congratulations to a wonderful new mother!

As you tuck your children into bed tonight I want you to think about how your life or decisions may have been different if you were facing homelessness while giving birth. Many new moms face this everyday and it seems to only be on the rise. Homelessness is the face of our mothers and our babies. Not just the panhandlers on the corner that you try to avoid eye contact with as you drive by. It could happen to anyone regardless of race, gender, age or background. Homelessness knows no boundaries and still I was so naive to it just a few years ago. As I sat there holding baby Jeremiah I remembered my babies. Its hard to remember them being that young again but as soon as I held him all my memories of being in that same hospital came flooding back. The only difference was, I knew that when I was released I was going to my home and putting my baby in her nursery. This mother is so much braver then I am. She has strength most of us don’t get to test and I hope we can all keep them and every mother facing some of the hardest times during what should be the happiest moments in our prayers.

Good night sweet Jeremiah, sleep well and welcome to the world. We hope it treats you kind and that you use your new life to walk with God always and bless others through the experiences God has already brought to you. Happy Birthday.

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3/12/14 UPDATE!!! We are pleased to say that this precious boy is now 2 months old and I got the pleasure to cuddle him and rock him to sleep yesterday! His mother moved back in with her father but unfortunately not all home environments are healthy. Remember the family I mentioned she was staying with at a local hotel? Well they recently were able to get into their own home and they opened up their doors to this wonderful mom and her baby so now these two families continue to be each others support and they are now one big happy family! Baby Jeremiah is doing great and growing like a weed! He is just the cutest thing you have ever seen and we are so happy that him and his mother are safe and have the love and support of some great friends! Thank you to everyone who has been asking about them and wanting to donate clothing to Jeremiah! It is greatly appreciated and it warms my heart to see a community pull together to help a stranger when sometimes their own family are unable to do so. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and with all the bad in the world today I am glad that when it comes down to it, we can take the opportunity to show Christ’s love to others and stand for what is the right thing to do!

Santa Really Does Exist! – Caring for homeless children, our Christmas in review

When you’re a child there is always a question about Santa. Some parents take a lot of time and effort into making their children believe in a chubby, large elf with magic powers that wears a red suit, flies a sled with reindeer and magically fits down your chimney. They photo shop, make powder foot prints in the house, track his route online and do everything they can to keep this little bit of childhood magic alive. I dont think there is anything wrong with that but as a child I never celebrated Christmas and didn’t believe in Santa, and as an adult with children of my own, my kids figured it out pretty quickly because of the volunteer work we all do together. Through that we discovered something very magical, Santa REALLY does exist, and he wouldn’t exist without fist, the love and faith of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ through whom we have an opportunity to live forever, just like the spirit of St. Nick.

I guess when I first started celebrating I bought into all the marketing of Santa Clause that I didn’t really take the time to learn about St. Nicholas and understand what that means for a Christan. There is so much debate about this and every holiday. Was it really Christ’s birthday? Most likely, No. Was he even born in the Winter time at all? Highly improbable. Was this celebration first made to be in December because of the Catholic church wanting to appease people who wanted to celebrate something during the time of their other Pegan traditions? Probably. Does all this matter? Will you ever know the exact date of Christ’s birth? Is December 25th not a day that God hath made? Should we not rejoice in it? Should we not declare that if someone used a day for Pegan rituals that as a Christian we will take back that day for God and celebrate him each and every day to our fullest? Does teaching our kids about Santa mean that we take away from Jesus? All these questions come up each and every year and can stir up quite a debate. Let me give you another question. Are we wasting so much time debating details we may never know and making no progress that we miss out on the true meaning of Christmas and loose opportunities to teach our children and others about God, Jesus, Love and the Gospel? Spend less time debating and more time doing and more time experiencing. Only then do you realize that Santa really does exist! You can do your own research on St. Nick but I will let yall in on a secret. He was a real person!!! Yes he was! And in fact his parents we very devout Christians and helped many people. Some of their help was seen but most of the time their giving was in secret. Sure they we wealthy in finances but they were also wealthy in faith and love! After they passed away when Nicholas was a child he grew up to follow in their footsteps, however he did so in a time it was very unpopular to be a Christian. In fact the prisons at the time were more full of Christians then criminals and they were being prosecuted for their faith daily. The bible tells us to let our “giving be in secret” and to “not let your left hand know what the right is doing”. I think the story of St. Nicholas is a beautiful example of this that still continues today after his death. He helped many people in various ways in secret. Giving to others and loving them freely without needing to show off or take credit. Help them simply because he felt called to do it and they needed help. He did not live in the North Pole but rather grew up in Turkey and Santa was Greek! Its amazing how trying to make things more magical you loose true beauty that was actually real! If your children know how Santa began then every time they see him they will also think of Jesus and keep the holiday all about our Lord and Savior as it should be!

So now that you have heard my two cents and had a brief history lesson I want to tell you about how Santa existed through our little big city or Murfreesboro, TN this year. I’ve never really seen anything like it. Each year as a group we are thrilled to see God work. He allows us to grow and do bigger things each year which is a great  lesson for us. When you are learning about and trying to make a positive impact on a huge issue like childhood homelessness at the same time, baby steps are a necessity! we had three big events in the course of a few days and it took a whole community to pull it off. I am humbled by how everyone pulled together!

 

1. Adopt a child for Christmas: We were given a list from a local elementary school of homeless or in need children that would otherwise not have a Christmas. We had a total of 40 children that we needed to adopt out. I dont know why I question if we can pull this off every year but every child was “adopted” within two days and by the most loving, kind and generous people you would ever meet! Besides the children on this list we were getting e-mails and calls each day by families, volunteers, schools and other organizations about children in need. To me this all seems over whelming sometimes. We are not a big organization. We do not have sponsors or grants. We are just a small community outreach group made up mostly of moms and families who want a way to make a difference and volunteer together as a family. We are all mostly broke ourselves and some have faced homelessness as well. We just enter everything in faith and do whatever needs to be done. God doesnt give up on us and we never give up on the tasks no matter how large. When it was all said and done, about 80 children were “adopted” for Christmas and the ones from the elementary school were invited to a Milk and Cookies party with Santa where the children were given “Santa’s magic bags” that will fill with magic on Christmas morning if they didnt peak and put it under the tree. It was amazing seeing people take so much time and effort into making these kids Christmas wishes come true. Hearing one little boy pass the stage and say “Look!, Someone is getting a bike” then getting to surprise him later because that bike was HIS, was one of my favorite moments! You should have seen his face! His jaw dropped!! Sure, when you do things like this, well….I will just be honest……sometimes the parents are not always easy to please or even grateful. Sometimes they will complain or seem entitled. That’s not how everyone is but there are always a few in the bunch but that’s okay! Maybe with love and prayer that in time will change and if not, maybe we can be their childs opportunity to break the cycle. For the most part the families we see are amazing and we are blessed to have them as friends! About 160 attended this event. Families had an opportunity to volunteer together and being able to pray with a room full of parents and children was great! One of the best parts was that the people who adopted a child were invited to volunteer so they were able to sneak a peak at the child’s face when they were surprised by Santa! Sure it wasnt really Santa who filled that bag but we are letting out giving be in secret….remember!? 🙂

 

2. Christmas party with children at Way of Hope emergency shelter:These kids are very near and dear to me and I love them like my own! Way of hope is a local emergency shelter that takes the women and children by bus to a different church each night. They transport cots and mattresses with them each day in a trailer and all their belongings can fit into a large black trash bag that they use as their suit case. As long as we have been working with them we see an average of 10-12 children there each night. Some of the kids are only there for a night but for some kids they have been their the whole time we’ve been working with this organization which is about 6 months now.  A couple days before Chrsitmas, the night we have our normal playdate/bible study with them, we gave them the best Christmas party we knew how! The room we are able to use in the church is crowded, small and filled with cots, trash bags of clothing and a washing machine but that does not stop us! We kept the kids out of the room and decorated with lights, an inflatable Santa, “bear skin” rug, fake fire place, a small tree and a ride-able reindeer! We also brought in a special surprise! A small TV and an original Nintendo with Mario and Duck hunt! We ate milk and cookies, gave away presents, decorated the tree, read a night before Christmas, wrapped presents for their moms and listened to Christmas music. This one little boy new to the program sat on my lap and kept stroking my hair and face then he proceeded to climb on my back like a jungle gym. With all the fun things going on, moments like that will always be my favorite!

 

3. Operation Christmas Care!

Now this event is a DOOZY! Last year we kinda stumbled into doing this and it was on a much smaller scale. This year we knew what was needed and had time to plan and we love our Christmas morning tradition!  It really defines Christmas for me now and I cannot thank everyone enough for making this possible! Our mission? To surprise homeless and in need children on Christmas morning! With what? Well toys, food, toiletries, Santa and most of all….LOVE! We had never done a toy drive before and for the first couple weeks our boxes were empty but man oh man! That surely changed!!! Groups, schools, businesses, churches, individuals were calling me daily wanting to help and we were getting donations right up to Christmas morning! One whole room of our home was stacked from corner to corner with huge boxes full of everything you can think of! And let me just tell you these were not just little cheesy toys! We had the best selection of toys from hot wheels to DS Lites and everything in between! Just this past Summer we had a small box of toys stolen and I am so glad my faith allows to to know God will provide instead of being too upset. I sat “too” upset because of course I am human and I was not very happy at first! God provided in a huge way through people in our community! We are such a small group and Angel Tree and Salvation Army are so popular that I was thrilled that others took the time to see what we were doing and show their support! Now toys, food, etc is one thing….but getting people to volunteer on Christmas morning? Forget-a-bout-it, right? Well let me just tell you! We had a line of about 12 cars in front of our home by 9am! Some were families wanting to volunteer together and give back to the community, some were teachers who see these children daily,  some were single people without children, some were families who had experienced homelessness before or were even currently homeless. Some were regular volunteers and for some they had never met me before. We were all family that day and will continue to be no matter what! We decorated our cars and “set sail” as the biggest caravan I have ever seen with a “reindeer” strapped to the top of our van in the lead and the last vehicle was Santa hauling a trailer with a comfy chair strapped to it! We followed each other from motel, to housing project to shelter. Blasting Christmas music, knocking on doors and honking horns we gained the attention of over 100 children who were met by loving volunteers, Santa, Mrs. Clause, two elves and 12 vehicles stuffed  full of toys, and any need they may have to choose from! From hand made scarves, home made cookies, any toy they wanted and much more we made sure they were spoiled and surprised! Lots of hugs to go around and smiles that wouldn’t quit! And of course it wouldn’t be a fun event if something didn’t go wrong. Two of the cars died at the same time! But don’t worry! Santa to the rescue! They both got a jump from Santa and we were good to go! Now to those who are skeptics….did some take advantage? Sure! Do we care? No! If we cared and stopped what we were doing because of a few who take advantage then we would miss out on the children who get left behind. I would gladly have many take advantage of our kindness if it meant we reached just one child who needed us! We are not called to manage what others do with our kind gestures, we are just called to love. Give freely. Grace is already given and not mine to manage so don’t stress and commit to love more. Maybe you will inspire those who need it the most!

THANK YOU! I want to thank everyone who made this all possible! Our wonderful and amazing volunteers who give of themselves 100%! Olympus Athletic Club, Chuy’s, Immortal Body in Ink, American Taxi and Shuttle, Stone Ridge Apartments,  the churches, schools and individuals who helped us with toy/food drives! The many people who would randomly leave presents on our porch to support our cause. Heritage farms for donating 100 pints of milk to our Milk and cookie party. Rich Products and Julia’s Bakery for donating AMAZING cookies! 3 Brothers Deli on the square for allowing us to use their banquet space! Santa for helping us during his busiest time of year and Praise be to GOD who allows us to see his Holy Spirit at work.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to ALL!