Night of Holiday Wonder
As you gather with your family this year, take a moment to acknowledge family members who are present and available to listen to you and give you encouragement. Your warm, safe home with a dinner prepared and ready to eat. Children anticipating the gifts they will receive. Now strip away all that is familiar and comforting. At a time the rest of the world is focused on family and friends, you have been removed from your home and everyone and everything that is familiar to you.
During this holiday season, Ashley Kipp, Crisis Services Supervisor, expects to have about four children staying at Gail’s House Foster Care Shelter.
“This year is the second year that we have celebrated Christmas at Gail’s House,” she says. “These are girls, ages 10 to 15, who are stuck in a temporary situation because, at the moment, home is not a safe option of a place to live. They are uncertain as to where they will go next and who will be taking care of them.”
The staff of 13 at Gail’s House do everything possible to bring some holiday cheer to these children.
“I ask staff to volunteer to work over the holidays, and I always end up with too many,” Kipp smiles. “Everyone wants to do something to help.”
Placements at the six-bedroom House are accepted every day of the year, 24 hours a day. The girls receive an assessment of their needs, crisis counseling, structured physical and skill-building activities, case management coordination of care, educational assignments and transportation to and from school, and positive behavior support.
And, during the holidays, thanks to funds from the HANDLE WITH CARE program, they receive a bit more.
“We do whatever we can to bring Christmas to the House,” Kipp says. “We have the girls make Christmas wish lists and many ask for basic necessities like a new hairbrush or a bottle of shampoo or a warm blanket.”
HANDLE WITH CARE funds are used to purchase a tree and decorations, stockings to hang up for each child, and a few modest gifts. Funds also go to buy a holiday meal—a ham, potatoes and side dishes, and pies.
“Last year, our budget allowed for $100 per child,” Kipp says. “We also include holiday activities. We take the girls to watch the Christmas parade downtown and on other holiday outings. We make gingerbread houses and go shopping at the in-house holiday store for little gifts to give to each other.”
Not every moment of the holidays at Gail’s House is cheerful. The very idea of a holiday, for some, brings painful memories. Some of the children may need crisis counseling to get through the season.
“But there are those who tell us the Christmas they have here is one of the best they’ve ever known,” Kipp says. “We work hard to try to give them that.”