Friday, December 12, 2014

Insider's View of the Christmas Baskets

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson declared a War on Poverty in his State of the Union address. Fifty years later, how have American families advanced? We are not too much altered 50 years later in 2014. When you visit your local stores I’m sure you have noticed everything is rising except our pay. Most of us have had to learn to get by on less, and tight budgets are a necessity to make ends meet. Well, what happens to the families that are already getting by on less? These days, families have to persevere. Not to build moral character but in order to survive. Research shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice the federal poverty level to meet their most basic needs In some households they are not meeting those basic needs.

Christmas especially is a time when my heart goes out to those families, and the homeless. It’s a hard lesson to learn to count the blessings you have, and not dwell on the blessings you don’t. Many families are discouraged when they are trying so hard to survive all year round and then, here comes Christmas. What do you say to a child when there is no extra money to buy gifts, even a small one? What do you say to a child that believes in Santa when Santa won’t be coming to their house this year?  ‘Belief’ is right up there with ‘dreams’ and that’s what we want for all children. I myself never want to see that sense of wonder of hearing the Christmas Story, the ‘Gift of the Magi (teaching about unselfish love), or A Christmas Carol (teaching about generosity, kindness, compassion and the universal love for your community) gone from a child’s world of wonder. Families sometimes struggle so much every day to make ends meet through no fault of their own that the pleasures of life have been worn away. The homeless are also longing for an end to the aloneness caused by being homeless and the accusatory looks from passerby’s that can’t even imagine what it would be like. It is not for us to judge any fellow human being, just open your heart and let your love be passed from one human to another, its that simple. Don’t over think it.

When I see the outpouring of donations during our Christmas Basket Drive it reminds me of the many individuals that show love for one another. Our city is known for tremendous outpouring when a need arises. But there are also those that judge.

The basket programs in Decatur do a service for families and they do it well. When the meaning of Christmas leaves your heart and you complain about the commercialization of Christmas or the money that is spent, or not spent (for the benefit of the business owners) reevaluate what have you have done to put back into the meaning of Christmas. My Christmas is much more meaningful after coordinating the preparing of around 350 families Christmas Baskets knowing their Christmas will be more enjoyable for them and their children! Much more meaningful watching the number of volunteers that come out in all kinds of weather to help with the baskets and watching all the donations that comes to us to make all those baskets possible. Placing your happiness in the happiness of others is what Christmas has come to be part of. Christmas means different things to different people. What does it mean to you? To some it’s just a word, to Christians it marks the day that God loved us so much he gave us a wonderful gift. The gift of pure unselfish love and the ability to love our fellow man!

 What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace. ~Agnes M. Pahro

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Kwanza, H

Francie Johnson, Program Director Community Services/Decatur Area Project

Christmas Basket Drive Coordinator

Francie (R) with MHS Representative and their donation of Christmas Socks, 2013

Insider 's view of the Christmas Baskets

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. I’m actually pretty sure it’s in my genetic makeup to love the season. My grandma has always decorated her house and yard from high to low, bright lights and plastic Santa’s and multiple Christmas trees shine from Thanksgiving night til New Year’s in her neighborhood. Some of my earliest memories involve listening to my mom’s Elvis Presley Christmas decorations as I sat amidst our own house’s decorations in progress.

Ten years ago it took on a very different meaning for me. I started working at Dove in August of 2004, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that in addition to all of its other programs, Dove, along with Northeast Community Fund, did an annual Christmas basket drive for those who need it. I still remember showing up in the basement of First United Methodist Church, where the baskets are organized and put together, that first year.

Some tables were piled high with hats, gloves and scarves. Others were piled with toys, separated by gender and age. Still others were piled with clothing and shoes and things like blankets and towels. IN addition to all the tables of donations, there were numerous volunteers bustling around. Some were sorting hats and gloves, others counting toys to see how many we still needed in order to fill the baskets. I felt overwhelmed, but in that good way you feel when you realize how much people are doing to help others.

Over the years, I’ve done a bit of all the different jobs that need done during Christmas Baskets Week. But last year was my first year that I was a Community Services staff member. The Community Services Program organizes everything at the church. But long before that week, as I discovered last year, we begin collecting and counting, talking to volunteers who want to help, talking to people who want to adopt families for Christmas, and working on all of the paperwork that has to be done in advance for the week.

Countless staff and volunteer hours are poured into making sure that anywhere from 350 to 400 families have food and gifts on Christmas day. It’s a heartening reminder of what the true Christmas spirit is all about, and every year since, it’s something I’ve looked forward to.

Angie Williams, Community Organizer
Community Services, Decatur Area Project

Angie working at the 2013 drive.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Quiet Nights

My name is Cynthia Farrington and I have been employed at Dove since 2005, in which I was hired on 2nd shift as Shelter Specialist, in this position it has lots on duties to the shelter itself.

One that I like was being advocate to single women and women with children who came into shelter.  I really enjoy working with the clients because it challenged me to empower them to take their life back, and to learn more about the cycle of abuse.

It also helps me to encourage clients to face their fears with staff's help  and to set goals that they thought was lost.

It also challenged me in where I couldn't be judgmental to the abuser but to be more empowering to the victims of Domestic Violence.

So with this said I do miss 2nd shirt and all the challenges it brings, however, I am no longer on this shift.   I work the Overnight shift which is 12:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. Monday-Friday.  It is a quieter shift and less active with client interactions at times and I may not get to have lots of contact with the clients at time, but when I do late at night I still encourage them with empowerment even 15 minutes its just enough to let them know that the Dove Staff care and is here for clients day and night - after all - the shelter is open 24 hours.

In closing I would like to say my journey here at Dove, Inc. has been good one and I wouldn't trade it for all the tea in China.

Cynthia Farrington
Night Shelter Specialist

The winds of change are upon us

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