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It happened again this year; on a day when I least expected it in mid-December. It was just a voice on the other end, but I couldn’t help tearing up when she told her story.
Getting out of an abusive marriage, couch surfing at friend’s homes with her kids, technically homeless and with no access to stability. She called seeking some toys and food for her family during the holiday season.
I was holding it together okay until she meekly said in a voice laced with pain, “I can get along with what I have, you know…barely…but, do you think there is anything available for me?” I was too overwhelmed by emotion for a moment to say anything. I got my bearings and told her about how our Holiday Giving Network operates. Families in need in our community can sign up at one of 11 pantry sites throughout Kent County for holiday food and also for Toys for Tots. This year we signed up 7,959 families (28,706 individuals) to receive either a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal.
When I think of the Holiday Giving Network on this side of the holidays I remember the stress of the season, the many prayers I whispered to ask the Lord to bring enough providers, and the overall rush of trying to pull everything together to make sure nearly 8,000 families were matched with food. But I also think of Kelly’s story and I start to tear up all over again. I remember a few other stories as well such as the Northview Girl’s Varsity Basketball team that delivers holiday food every year. They told me that they had a particularly moving experience when the team sang Christmas carols to the family, watching the children dance in the middle of their circle of singers as the parent’s eyes welled up with tears.
Or the story of Laura who called to say her Bible study could be matched with two families, but after hearing the explanation of the simplicity of the program responded with “Oh it’s that easy? We’ll take ten families!” Then there was the 18 year old who asked her mom to forgo buying her Christmas presents so that they could provide a food basket for one of our families.
Through the hectic season of the Holiday Giving Network these stories kept me going. They were daily reminders that the hurt, sorrow, joy, and love of the humans we serve and that serve with us are very real. It’s tempting to get lost in the high volume and numbers of “clients” that sign up for the program, removing faces and stories to keep our hearts out of the way of experiencing their pain. But to miss out on empathizing with the brokenness of humanity is to lose sight of the very reason our Savior came into the world and also removes ourselves from the experience of true joy as well.
Your support, encouragement, and willingness to serve our community also kept me going throughout the holiday season. Without you the nearly 8,000 families that signed up for the Holiday Giving Network in 2012 would simply not have been provided for. Thank you for helping us make certain that everyone in Kent County had enough this holiday season. May the joy of the season and the blessing you gave to those in need return upon you in this New Year!
Celebrating the activity of God in our midst, the mission of Access is to be a faith-based leader in linking congregational, individual, and community resources to reduce the impact of poverty in Kent County.