This was the first Christmas Kimberly was able to celebrate with her three-year-old son. After years of living in an abusive relationship, Christmas had faded on her calendar to just a regular day.
“All the holidays were ‘just another day,’” she said. “I had this man who came home drunk and wanted to fight and argue. My son never even had a Christmas tree.”
She became homeless after she left the house she shared with her abusive spouse. A counselor at a Toledo shelter referred her to Catholic Charities Permanent Supportive Housing program where she was able to find a safe home for herself and her son.[singlepic id=874 w=320 h=240 float=right]
Determined to give her son Christmas, Kimberly applied for the Project Bethlehem program through Catholic Charities. The program matches clients with community sponsors who fulfill clients’ Christmas wish lists for toys and household items. Kimberly and her son were one of 124 families who were helped through the program this year.
A volunteer component was introduced to the program last year. People we served had expressed a willingness to share their gratitude for those who helped make Christmas possible for their families. They helped serve meals or volunteered in other ways at Helping Hands of St. Louis.
“They really enjoyed volunteering,” said Vickie Williams, program coordinator. “A couple of people said volunteering for Project Bethlehem made them interested in volunteering again. That’s part of the reason why we continue to do it.”
Volunteering was a change in perspective for Kimberly. She volunteered at Helping Hands of St. Louis Clothing Center. She said it was a joy to hang and organize clothes for the Clothing Center’s guests.
“It’s different being on the giving side,” Kimberly said with a smile. “Instead of receiving things from the Center, I was able to help give back to others.”
When she picked up her gifts, she said she looked forward to decorating her new home with a Christmas tree and lights.
“I’ll probably have to tell my son to leave the tree alone. He’s going to want to touch it and say ‘Mommy look,’” she chuckled.
She is grateful for those who helped provide a happy Christmas and a new beginning for her and her son.
“I was able to give to others, and I was able to give my son Christmas by helping. That made me feel good. I am so thankful that I have my own household and Christmas celebration because of these programs.”