Monday, January 9, 2012

Giving Back

This Christmas season at work we decided to participate in a volunteer project together.
We all have so much to be thankful for and there are so many in need, especially with the economy being the way it is.
So after many phone calls and a lot of internet research, I decided that we would give some of our time at Shelter Inc.

Shelter Inc is an organization that provides emergency assistance to the homeless of Contra Costa County. They provide emergency and short term housing. They provide all the immediate needs of the homeless as well as classes and training to help people get back on their feet and become independent again. During the Christmas season they provide "Christmas" for over 700 people, due to thousands of gifts and hundreds of hours donated.

I am ashamed to say that this was the first time I have ever volunteered anywhere besided my children's schools. And I cannot express how rewarding it was!

Upon arrival we found the hallways lined with presents, both wrapped and unwrapped.

They also had stockings put together for all ages.

Almost everything was labeled by age and gender.

They also had what seemed like a huge walk-in closet, full of miscellaneous toys, clothes, books, etc...


When we got all settled in and after we were shown around, we were given a piece of paper with the description of a family on it, mostly single-parent families. The description included names, ages, sizes, a short history as to how the family became homeless, and a wish list.

We were then to go "shopping" through the hallways and closets to find 6-7 presents for each member of the family based on their description. If the gifts were unwrapped, we wrapped them, labeled them, and bagged up the whole family's gifts for delivery.

One family member I shopped for was a 4-year-old little girl.
It was both a heart-wrenching and a heart-warming experience all at once.
I could just imagine the look of excitement on her face when she opened up the unexpected gifts.

All the while, I just kept thanking the Lord that my own children don't have to worry where their next meal will be coming from and if it will be coming at all; praying for these homeless children and teenagers that the Lord guide them in the right direction and give them a better chance at life; thanking Him for guiding me to this place to make a difference.

There were presents EVERYWHERE! It was absolutely amazing!

I left here so excited and energized that over the next few days I talked to several people about the experience. One of which owns horse stables and provides riding lessons. She gave me her business card and asked me to pass it along to the organization, donating two free riding lessons!

Then Dominic said he was interested in volunteering as well.
One of the first days of vacation, I dropped him and three of his friends off for several hours to volunteer their time as well.

If I can teach anything to my children, I hope that it is to be thankful for what they have and who they have in their lives. Life can change so quickly. Many of these homeless people recently had homes and jobs...and now have very little physical belongings.

This was such a perfect experience the holiday season, one of which I plan to repeat for years to come. And yes, as my other children get older, they too will be joining in!