We are constantly bombarded with stories about evil, tragedy and some might say, the work of the devil.
I like writing good news stories. My story today deals with two Community Christmas Angels, Joan Eisenhardt and Kathy Sweeney.
Walli Roarke, contacted me at Starbucks and exclaimed, “Joe you have to write a story about volunteers Joan Eisenhardt and Kathy Sweeney.” Walli has served on the Board of Directors for Greater Lakes Mental Healthcare for over 20 years, so she has had plenty of opportunity to observe the good work performed by Joan and Kathy.
A few days later I met with Walli, Joan and Kathy at Greater Lakes Mental Healthcare, located at 9330 – 59th AV SW, Lakewood, Washington 98499. Phone: 253-581-7020.
I am told most people in Lakewood do not know where Greater Lakes is located or what they do inside this huge building. There are two kinds of people inside the building; people helping others in need and people in need receiving help. Greater Lakes Mental Healthcare is an important community resource.
The total annual enrollment of clients receiving services runs about 2,600 to 2,700 adults, plus about 700 children.
After learning what Joan and Kathy do for our Greater Lakes clients, I am reminded of the old riff I learned while visiting Yellowstone National Park, back in about 1959. “Christmas comes but once a year; once at home and once over here.”
Have any of you ever caught the nasty flu? Did you get the flu on purpose? Was the illness all your fault? For most of us, our answers to these questions are yes, no and no.
We caught the flu. Others caught mental illness. Most mentally ill did not ask to be mentally ill or homeless or poor. Those are simply the cards they were dealt in the poker game of life.
For most of us, Christmas is a wonderful time of the year filled with friends, family, good food, song, gift giving and joy. For the mentally disabled, Christmas is nothing but a cruel reminder of how terrible their life is. Christmas hurts.
Our two Community Christmas Angels work all year long to gather new stuff to use as Christmas presents for these individuals who are imprisoned in an unbearable lifestyle.
Just before Christmas, all Greater Lakes clients are invited to go Christmas shopping at the Greater Lakes Friends and Family Holiday Giveaway. Each shopper can pick out a maximum of three items.
Some are thrilled to get a Christmas present for themselves, since not one person on our planet will be giving them a Christmas present.
Others will select a gift for a friend or relative. When a shopper selects a gift for someone else, there are actually two gifts. The first gift is giving a present to a child, friend or love one. The second gift is experiencing the ability to give a gift, which is something you and I can easily take for granted.
This past December 13, 2013, shoppers started lining up at the door at 4:00 am. There were over 400 shoppers that day.
Sometimes they find an item they would like better than what they have already selected. At that juncture, they return the now classified unwanted item and walk out the door with their final choices. They do not need money for this shopping event. It is a Christmas Giveaway.
The most popular gift last year was a “bed in a bag” set, which included a comforter, sheets, pillow cases, shams and bed skirts. This was a $100 value. The Christmas Angels waited and when the time was right pounced on a sale that allowed them to purchase the $100 bed set for only $30. Buying right is what The Christmas Angels try to do all year long.
With an unpredictable cash flow, it is a challenge to manage the problem of having money to spend and no sale prices or having attractive sales prices, but no money to spend. Since all labor is provided by volunteers, 100% of the donations go directly to the gift giving project.
It would be wonderful to receive a cash grant to make the gift buying fund more predictable and uniform.
All of the gifts are brand new vs a rummage style program. The cost of the gifts out the door ran about $18,000 — $20,000.
Now that we understand what Joan and Kathy do for our community, it is easy to see why my creative vocabulary has knighted Joan and Kathy with the title of Community Christmas Angel.
The photo of the little girl with a basket nicely depicts just one of the Greater Lakes Mental Healthcare clients this program helps. Can you tell she is smiling?
If you wish to make a contribution in the form of money, grants, goods, services, or storage space, please contact one of our Christmas Angels as follows:
- Joan Eisenhardt Office: 253-620-5139. E: email@example.com.
- Christmas Angel Kathy Sweeney Office: 253-620-5081 E: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christmas comes but twice a year…
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