We have just gone through what might be called "Gala season." For some months before and several weeks after, a couple of us live and breathe the preparations, record keeping and conducting of a major event. This year's 15th annual Gala, like all the others, was a great chance for a quite diverse group of people to unite around a common purpose - fund raising for First Light's guests. It was a collaboration of work and giving by committees, volunteers, board members, sponsors and our staff to create a lovely celebration of our mission and its successes.
Over three hundred people attended the event held at the Sheraton Birmingham's ballroom. Much enthusiasm is generated when it comes to bidding and winning items in the silent and live auctions. The usual attention getters were the trips (one to Napa Valley wine country and another to Paris) and providing a steak dinner for emergency shelter guests. Added features were the Wine Pull and the beautiful yellow begonias wrapped to take home as Mother's Day Surprises.
A new video, thanks to funding from Alabama Power, was premiered. Three women were featured in this new video. It is inspiring to see the hope, joy and determination in evidence in all three of these women, given their realities. Anyone who supports First Light wants to know that their gifts are making a difference. One is a young mom with two children staying in the shelter. And she's smiling. The second former shelter guest is a woman in one of our housing programs who is working and intends to become a licensed nurse. And she's smiling. The third, Miss Vicki, is a "graduate" of the emergency shlter and one of our supportive housing programs. She is now a regular volunteer and has twice teamed with Deb Everson to speak about First Light's programs to groups. And she's smiling.
It's summer now. The Gala is over. It will be just a little bit harder to fill dinner and overnight volunteer openings, thanks to vacations and school being out. Here's the rub. There are no "seasons" for our guests. Their desperate needs remain the same. Every day. There is no holiday from homelessness - unless you count the relief many come to know when they realize that TODAY someone is listening. Someone is trying to shine light where there has been none.
Gala or no Gala, our efforts must include doing what is necessary to generate income that sustains the programs and services which provide the important foundation leading to success stories like those evidenced in the video. While supportive housing grants provide a solution for where the women can go when they leave the shelter, it takes generosity from individuals, civic groups, churches, corporations, and foundations to sustain the operation of the shelter. (Have you ever thought about how much water is used in a facility providing shelter to 60-70 women and children every day?)
We hope the summer blesses you with many opportunities to reconnect with family and friends, to curl up with that book you've been wanting to read, to spend time with a former hero or mentor...whatever it takes to get in touch with your best YOU. Keep us somewhere in the corner of your mind. We will be here doing what we do. Every day.
The needs are the same every day; the mission is the same every day. Standing that mission face to face against those needs is what we are here to do. No matter the season. Its a mission to face a bunch of days. One might just be THE day that launches a new life. THAT is worth supporting. THAT is worth celebrating.