Some of my favorite holiday memories didn’t take place on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, but rather in the early weeks of December as we gear up for the holidays at Alexandra House. Each year, with the help of the community, Alexandra House sets up our “Holiday Store,” a huge room full of toys where our current residents and recent clients can pick out gifts for their children, free of charge. This program is supported entirely by the generosity of this community, by folks like you who support Alexandra House and the families we serve. For the past several years, I’ve had the honor of working with the donors who make this event possible, and with the moms who participate.
I can tell you that this is, without a doubt, one of the best times to work here at Alexandra House. Working at a domestic & sexual violence organization throughout the year, you learn a lot about the ways in which people can be cruel, controlling, and hurtful. You realize that the stories of domestic and sexual violence that you read about in the news are not just stories, but part of the fabric of someone’s life. Although we bear witness to a lot of pain and struggle, there is hope too, and remarkable goodness in the people that we serve and in the community that supports us.
We begin to get inquiries about our holiday wish list in the fall, from individuals, civic groups, businesses, and faith communities that want to make the season brighter for the women and families we serve. Although (for confidentiality reasons) they will never meet the recipients of their donations, many of them are as enthusiastic as if they were shopping for their own families. We’ve had corporate offices that commit to having each employee bring in a toy to donate, Girl Scout troops that hand-tie a mountain of fleece blankets, and even kids who decide to forego their own holiday gifts and donate them instead. We have individuals who have supported the holiday program for years: giving boxes of Matchbox Cars or hand-knit mittens each December like clockwork. In speaking with donors, I’ve heard stories about their own lives that have inspired them to contribute. Some have even received gifts in the past, and are now looking to give back. Our donors have taught me that you don’t have to be wealthy to be generous, and that the collective small actions of community members can create a huge impact.
For everyone who donated and volunteered this year, or in years past, I truly wish that you could know the amazing women and families that you support. When moms come in to pick out gifts, you can so often see the amount of love and pride they have for their kids, and how happy they are to be able to give their children the holiday they deserve. Ending the cycle of domestic or overcoming the sexual violence in your own life—in your family’s life—is difficult work, and anything that we can do as a community to make that process easier is so important.
Together, we distributed gifts to over 200 children this year. Through those gifts, we provided not only something that kids can unwrap, but a clear message to all of the families we serve that this community supports them and wants them to thrive. To our donors, volunteers, and supporters: thank you for making this possible, and for making the holiday season such a joyful time at Alexandra House. To everyone in this community: we wish you the safest & happiest of holidays!