The holidays are an incredible time of year and at the YWCA we are tasked with the unique challenge of bring joy and cheer to young children and women of all ages at a difficult juncture in their lives.
The first sign of the holidays always is the tall and bright Christmas tree placed in the center of the rotunda. It cheerfully greets all who enter our building seeking security, safety and shelter.
On the residential floors, the joy of children is our main focus. The living rooms and common areas feature jolly snowmen, smiling Santa's and trees that are decorated with ornaments the children themselves create.
The excitement and anticipation builds for children all month long. On the third Monday evening in December, our own Santa Claus comes to town. We hold a large holiday party for all of our residents - complete with a holiday craft, story time, food, gifts and music. Local businesses donate all the food and drinks for the celebration and the spread always is delicious and well-received.
But we can't, and we don't, do it on our own. The generosity that this community displays is an amazing, unspeakable gift to the women and children we serve. Meagan Murray and the "Meagan's Box" - a nonprofit Christmas project - provides gifts for the children in our programs.
During the holiday party, Santa (portrayed by our own, white-bearded maintenance director) gives the children two special gifts to open. The remainder of the packages from Meagan's Box - which include clothing, hats, coats, backpacks and toys - are distributed Christmas morning to the children. Accompanying those gifts are a personalized note from Santa - reminding the kids to do their homework, listen to their mother and other encouragements unique to each child.
Other Christmas donations are geared toward the mothers and single women in the programs since the children are so abundantly cared for through Meagan's Box. Donations of bathrobes, pajamas, scarves, gloves and unique personal items come through church groups, workplaces and businesses.
These donations and community support turns into more than what money can buy. Mothers glow as their children squeal in excitement, marveling in the wonder of the season. Single women in the program feel pampered by new pajamas and slippers and share the joy that radiates throughout these walls.
Liberty House and Wise Options are only temporary stops in the lives of these women and children - and it's often hard to make this place feel like a home. The holidays are just one opportunity for us and for the public to show these individuals that they are cared for, loved and special.
This holiday season, may you feel loved and special and may you find a way to share that joy with those around you.
Thompson is the communications and development manager at the YWCA.