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First Light News

Celebrating the holidays in a shelter?

Ever wonder how homeless women and children can even begin to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas in an emergency shelter?

Thanks to deeply committed volunteers who want to make a difference in their world, our guests in the emergency shelter AND those who have left shelter and are in our supportive housing programs will feel the love of their community during the holidays. Here is a summary of how the women and children we serve will be blessed:

1. Brookwood Baptist Church is, once again, donating the makings for a complete Thanksgiving meal to every one of our ladies in supportive housing. That is over 50 boxes with a turkey, side dishes and pumpkin pie "fixins." The social work staff delivers these to all the ladies at their apartments.
2. Members from the Living Waters faith community will be here to serve Thanksgiving dinner to all emergency shelter guests. Rosie Montgomery, a Bible Study leader here for 14 years, is coming with a mid-day Thanksgiving meal for the permanent residents on 4th floor.
3. Christmas gift bags are prepared for every shelter resident and are placed on their beds while they are eating Christmas breakfast. It's like Santa came! Santa's elves place the bags at every woman's bed. It's a special assignment for them.
4. Cheri Amos (2014 Volunteer of the Year) will be here with her children and friends bright and early on Christmas morning to provide a bountiful breakfast for shelter guests. (That's up to 70 women and children)
5. Our founding church, First Presbyterian of Birmingham, always chooses Christmas week for its dinner and overnight services Sunday through Saturday. They will lead a special prayer service on Christmas Day.
6. We conduct a project called "Shopping Day" wherein donors through the community contribute toys, games, sporting goods, etc. for children of all ages. Any woman staying in the shelter or in our housing programs who cannot provide Christmas gifts for her children or grand children is invited by her social worker to come to "Shop." The Program Rom will be filled with all the donated items. From these the
ladies can select, for no payment, of course, gifts she would like to give to the children in her life. Across the hall in the board room will be volunteers who wrap the gifts in pretty paper and ribbons. Women leave with Christmas gifts for the children they love. Priceless!
7. All of the women in our housing programs are asked to provide a Wish List of two items they would like to have for Christmas. Most of their wishes are granted thanks to the generosity of community members who ask to provide the Wish List items.

The staff has a heightened awareness of the overall mood and state of mind of our guests during the holiday season. We all have both happy and sad memories of Christmases past. Sometimes singing carols only makes one feel more alone. We stay tuned in and do some activities with the ladies that are the dance party where staff members get up to show off their "moves."

Many guests have told us how much they appreciate all the love, support, and joy that is offered to them during what was a hard time for them. Yes, there can be a loving and meaningful experience of Thanksgiving and the Christmas holiday period in an emergency shelter. This is all thanks to the combined efforts of a host of individuals and groups who care about their "sisters" staying at First Light.