Williamsburg's Homeless & Indigent

P.O. Box 366, Lightfoot, VA 23090
Office: 757-561-3255
"Assisting people in re-gaining hope and a better way of life."

Friday, December 26, 2003


Sunday and Monday many of the gifts for the homeless started to pour in. By this time our living room and dining room were overflowing with toys, bikes, wrapped packages containing clothes and coats, food boxes for Christmas and much more. Monday we started to move our furniture into the extra bedrooms so we could set up the tables and chairs since we estimated about 60 people for the event. Geoff and I started filling white lunch bags with sand and small candles so we could line the driveway and walkway the next night. By the time we were finished, we had over 50 bags ready and waiting to light the path for our guests’ arrival the next night. But of course Murphy always has to bring conflict into a special time because I could tell I was getting sick. I had hoped that I would not catch this crud that so many people have had over the past weeks but I guess it was my turn now.

Early Tuesday morning I started to feel achy, coughing and walking around like my head was in the clouds but I tried hard to fight it. I couldn’t be sick now so I immediately started on some cough and cold syrup. I headed over to my hairdresser to have my hair done for the dinner that night. Most people are use to seeing me in sweat pants or jeans and a sweater, so I wanted to dress up for the evening. While I was patiently sitting in her chair as she curled, pulled and pinned my hair into an up-do, we chatted about Christmas and the typical question “Are you ready?” I found out she didn’t have any money for their holiday dinner and little for any gifts for her children. I had received some money for Christmas from family members that I had planned to use for shopping or bills, but knowing I have everything I need and really anything extra I bought would be frivolous for myself I thought about her children who had nothing. After she finished my hair, I pulled out my Christmas money and explained I didn’t have time for a receipt. I handed her the $200 and told her Merry Christmas. As tears welled up in her eyes, I rushed out the door before she could say “No.” when I got home; more elves had arrived to finish prepping the house and driveway for the night. I still hadn’t found a Santa Claus to replace ours who was sick with the flu, but I knew it was too late. I started to get dressed so I wouldn’t have to bother with it later, as it seemed we were running out of time. I still needed to go to McDonald’s and get gift certificates that the manager had donated for the stockings. While I was in the parking lot, I received a call from a lady who had a sister in need. They were just up the road at Salvation Army but had received my phone number from one of the ladies at local agency. Actually the local agency gave me her number as well and we had been playing phone tag for an hour. For the past couple of weeks, they had been seeking help from different agencies. She didn’t have the money for her rent and her landlord took her to court. If she didn’t have the money by Christmas Eve, the judge had ordered her out on Christmas Day. I briefly met with her and told her about the dinner that night. I invited them to all come and in the meantime, I would try to raise the money (but this only gave me a couple of hours.) I may not be able to do it, but God always comes through in the end.

After showing her where we lived so they could make it that night for dinner, I headed out to pick up people in the weekly motels for dinner. Unfortunately a couple of the guys who were to come for the party forgot our main rule: you must come sober. So they were left behind. Another gentleman had to work a double shift and couldn’t get off work. So I went by Carolyn Court to pick up Lisa. One of the girls in the office had asked me if we were going to be doing a dinner because many of the guests had asked. She said last year many of the churches had brought meals around but this year none had called. Gee, I wonder if it has to do with the fact they are soon to be closing by their announcement, yet the owner keeps postponing it? Thus, nobody has a clue to what is going on with them. I went to a few of the rooms that were given to me, but nobody was able to come here. They were hoping food was being brought to them. So Lisa and I were on our way back for the dinner. When we arrived at the house, a few guests had already shown up. The driveway was lit up with the lunch bag candles we had made the night before. More gifts had been placed under the tree and kids were running all around. The air was filled with Christmas joy and love.

By this time I was feeling run down and the medicine hadn’t seem to help other than making me sleepy. We set the karaoke machine up with Christmas songs and the little ones joined in singing the few songs they knew. Trying to sing Christmas carols made my throat hurt worse. Shortly after, our music director and his wife from the church arrived and they gladly took over with the children while I greeted other guests. The lady I had met with earlier arrived with her children and her sister and children. I had been trying to call around in-between guests to find people to pledge the money for her rent, but so far didn’t have any luck. But still I knew God would provide. Dinnertime was short but plentiful from all the food the churches had donated to us. But of course the first to go was the Smithfield ham donated by Steve Bingham and the Rileys. Christmas dinner just doesn’t seem complete without a Smithfield ham!

The time came for everyone to settle into the TV room for Dwayne and Geoff to read “The Giving Tree” story (if you aren’t familiar with this book, it is very sweet and you should read it.) The kids gathered round so they could see the pictures as the parents sat back and listened to the story and watched the children’s faces light up with each turn of the page. After the story, I shared how Jesus always gives us Peace and Rest just as the giving tree gave the old man a stump to rest upon. That we should all be grateful for what we have, even though we may be on the street because we always have Jesus and how He died for us so we could have life unconditionally. Most of this was said in the midst of tears. Christmas has become a joyous, yet emotional holiday and the story of “The Giving Tree” always makes me cry. And as my relationship with God becomes stronger, I find myself filled with tears of joy on many occasions. After a few minutes of sharing, the floor was open to everyone to share as well.

Many people talked about how they had become homeless or how they were grateful for at least being alive. One lady had talked about the hurricane and how she was scared and then some girl (me) showed up at her door at the run down weekly motel to see if she wanted to go to her and her husband’s home for safety and food. And how she hasn’t had a gift in many years and all she wanted was a coat. She is a larger size female (4x) and couldn’t afford the cost of a winter coat of this size. But earlier that night we had given her what she thought was her Christmas gift. A few weeks prior we had received a package of photos that were mailed to us of her son, whom she hasn’t seen in over 4 years. It was better than a coat and the best gift she could receive. Another couple who is expecting their first child talked about how they lost their home recently. The husband’s sister had died and didn’t have life insurance or money saved. His family didn’t want her to have a pauper’s funeral so they all pooled their money together for a nice small burial. When he explained this to his landlord, the landlord said he either had to pay or get out. The couple didn’t know they had rights and so they moved into on of the less desirable weekly motels. Pregnant and basically broke, the husband tried to get as many hours at work to move them out of the motel and back into a home, but had a hard time saving. One of the small local churches gave him our phone number to see what other options might be available. I suggested moving over to the Tioga Motel where the rooms were nicer, less expensive, larger and had a better clientele than where they were now. With God’s help, we are still trying to get them into a home before the baby arrives. Others spoke as well about how they met us but I reminded them that this was about God and how He provides. Not us. They shut me up fast with the response of “God brought you here to help us.“ Then the lady’s sister who was soon to lose her home spoke up. She told her story of how she is a single parent now. She works and goes to school to better her and her children’s lives in hopes to be able to provide more for them. Although she knew she would soon be homeless, she stated she “had to turn it over to God to provide a way to help her.” At this time, I slipped out of the room with Geoff because we were planning on having “Santa” call on the house phone to the children and explain he had much to do for Christmas and was sorry he couldn’t make it; but instead I explained to him that I was going to do something I typically don’t do. He understood. I went to our bedroom and prayed because I knew I had the money in my purse for the lady’s rent. I was suppose to make a deposit that day and never could get over to the bank. Although I had planned on using the money for us to get Geoff’s son’s Christmas gifts from layaway, buy groceries for our family Christmas dinner and get Geoff’s Christmas gift, I knew what was right. Whether it was already in my heart or God responded quickly, I automatically pulled the $500 out of my purse and proceeded back into the living room. By this time the room was filled with many tears as people sat listening to the lady finish her story. So again I started crying (this shocks many who know me because it is so rare that I cry.) I gave her the money with a Merry Christmas hug and more tears.

Oh I almost forgot! Paul Aron, who use to write for the Gazette came for some of the night. I didn’t get to talk with him because of all the activities, but it was great to see him again. But, he needed to leave before the gift opening so with a hug and tears “keep in touch with us” he headed home.

I figured it was time to have smiling faces instead of tears so I asked the children “who was going to be the first to tear into the gifts?” I was shocked because none of them moved. So again I asked and off to the living room we went. Stockings were passed out to everyone first so they would be occupied as others opened their gifts. The eyes of each child were filled with joy as they opened their gifts and their parents smiled at their excitement. The adults fought to hold back their tears, as boxes of necessities for them were unwrapped. Unfortunately, 2 little girls’ gifts were not delivered but I guaranteed them I would get them by this weekend. But by the kindness of Target and grace of God, we had enough donated that we were able to also give each person a gift from us. Some people received gifts for their new home that have recently been placed and others received clothing. But there were 4 people that still pull at my heartstrings each time I think about that night. Allen, who is 7, had wanted an electric scooter. This I had thought to be the hardest wish to fill. I had checked the prices and found them to be $200+, which was more than the limit we had set. But, a few weeks ago when we picked up some of the donations from Target, to my surprise was an electric scooter. It had been returned because it wouldn’t hold a charge. Immediately our elves went to work to find out why. It only had a small short in one of the wires and was fixed with some electrical tape. Allen kept eyeing it when he first came in, but walked away as if “this can’t be mine.“ I asked him if he saw anything under the tree that could be for him and a smile came across his face. Thank you Target! When I came across Lisa’s gift, I began to cry. She thought the pictures of her son were her gift and the quest for a coat to fit her was impossible. She came up and got her package and found that even the impossible is possible. She pulled out the coat and tried it on with hesitation and excitement. IT FIT! She now had a coat for winter thanks to Pastor Bill at York River and his wife Barbara. Our couple who we thought were having a Christmas baby had wanted baby supplies. They don’t have the extra money to buy many of the necessities since they are staying in a weekly motel and trying to save for a home. But a couple heard about their needs, even though they were not the person who adopted them, the Gibsons brought over a large box of baby boy clothing, a swing and bassinet. Target had supplied us with a car seat, formula, baby monitor and a small swing. So thanks to Target and the Gibsons, they are now prepared for their son’s arrival. Mrs. Ewing, Target and the Virginia Against Domestic Violence helped to fulfill the wishes of the last family that touched my heart. Our music director’s wife had contacted me late into the program (5 days before our event) about a single parent and her two children who are 13 and 4. Although they are not homeless, they are struggling. The mother works full time but has had many events in her life that has caused some setbacks. They live in a small one-bedroom house that they rent. The boy sleeps in the bedroom; the daughter in the area that should be the dining room and the mother sleeps on the couch. They were in need of clothing and food. We had a couple of toys from Target for her son (the 4-year-old) and some clothes. For her daughter, clothing was also provided along with a nice red wool dress coat, gloves and a teen-age Bible. For the mother, who has the bare necessities in her kitchen, she received a toaster, coffee maker and a blender. But the biggest surprise of all was a gift certificate to a local grocery store for $200, $100 in cash that was donated to her for ‘extras’ and a large box of food with a turkey that was provided by Va. Against Domestic Violence. You see she doesn’t have much because she had to flee and left everything behind a few years back. Her daughter use to have a twin brother. The father of the twins killed his son and after the trial was over, she moved her daughter as far away from the memories as possible. Later, she married again and had another child but recently has become separated without much support from her estranged husband. Once again we all cried.

With the night almost complete, packages all unwrapped and children playing, I was growing tired and running fevers. We helped people load their vehicles with their gifts, arranged transportation for those who needed a ride and I settled into bed while our elves helped clean up the assortment of leftovers, wrapping paper and dinner plates.

God bless you all who helped to make this night a success filled with love and joy. I hope everyone has a safe and blessed holiday season. Remember to find peace in what you have because there is always somebody else who has less than you do. And if you find that you may have extra, please share it with somebody in need.


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