This family lost everything to a fire in late September 2015. Mother had a full time job at a local restaurant and had taken a rare weekend off work to drive her two children to see their grandmother in Kentucky. While there, she received a call from her apartment manager. Her apartment had been broken into and gasoline was poured all over her furniture in every room and a trail of gasoline was lit from outside the door. The fire destroyed not only her apartment but the one next door and two above. Her immediate concern was for her neighbors. Fortunately, they were at work or out running errands. Mother said she drove home in horror and shame, wondering how she would face the people who lost their homes and belongings due to the anger and violence of her former partner. The fire was set by her youngest child’s father, from whom she had separated months prior to the fire. He stalked her. She took all the right steps, making police reports and obtaining a restraining order.
Upon arriving home, mother found the Salvation Army waiting with a motel room until a vacant apartment could be readied for the family. Her neighbors were kind and the community collected used clothing and household items for the family. Unfortunately, mother’s employer was not as sympathetic and put her off the schedule until she could get her life straightened out. Then she was told she was not needed anymore.
Mother’s new apartment was ready the second week of October. She immediately began putting donated pictures on the walls, since almost all her children’s pictures were lost. (Only one small box survived.) These might have been someone else’s pictures and belongings but she was determined to create “home” for her children as soon as possible. Mother found temporary work at warehouses and factories. Some jobs would last two weeks, others only a few days. It has been very hard for mother to make ends meet without steady work but she has been plugging away, hoping each new assignment will turn into a full-time job. Almost all of the children’s toys and clothing were destroyed – all their favorite shirts, dresses, stuffed animals, blankets, videos … everything was gone. Mother knew that she would not be able to afford Christmas gifts. She wanted them to have things that would become new treasured toys.
The first of November, when asked if she would like for her children to participate in Hope for the Holidays, Mother was amazed that she would be able to say what the children would like and need. She described her 2-year-old daughter’s love of Minnie Mouse, dolls, doll strollers and her need for warm sleepers and boots. She lost her stuffed Minnie Mouse in the fire and all her dress-up clothes. We wrote about her 6-year-old son’s loss of his stuffed Ninja Turtle and matching blanket in the fire. He also needed boots, jeans and a warm sweatshirt. He wanted a football and DVDs for Christmas. This family was sponsored soon after being placed on the tree. The donors provided a stuffed Minnie Mouse and Ninja Turtle, pajamas, a Lego set, a doll stroller, warm boots, jeans, beautiful little girl outfits and a Ninja Turtle hoodie! There were also blankets monogramed with the children’s names. Nothing we mentioned was left out. We delivered the gifts to Mother outside her apartment so the children wouldn’t see. She jumped and whooped so loud that the neighbors stopped to share her joy!
Yes, kids (and mom), there is a Santa Claus.