January 2016- articles
By Tuesdi D.
As she sat with her children for a regularly scheduled appointment with her Outreach Advocate, Lena kept a tight watch on her children while they constructed some old puzzles on the floor of CASA’s Outreach Center. Christmas was coming. But, this year, Lena had decided she would try to distract her children from the holiday cheer. She didn’t want them to be disappointed that Santa might not find them this year.
Living with her sister, Lena has been tirelessly focused on finding a new place for her family to call home. A place free from the violence she and her children have seen. Her sister’s generosity has been welcomed, but she knows it’s putting a financial strain on her sister’s family. When Lena arrived for her regular appointment on that Monday, December 21st, she had no idea how much CASA and this amazing community has been thinking of her.
Lena’s advocate called her in for her appointment. Her CASA advocate swiftly asked her to wait for a moment before they could begin and disappeared into the hallway. When she returned, she had two trash bags – the largest trash bags Lena had ever seen. The CASA advocate sat down and asked her to open them. Lena’s moment was forever changed.
As she opened the bags, she saw the most beautiful robe and slippers. There were new pajamas for not only her, but all three of her children. The bottom of the bag was filled with plates and cups for a new start, and even perfume, shampoo and body wash. She had not had extra money to spend on perfume for herself in so many years.
The second bag was bulging, with jagged points looking as though they could puncture the sturdy bag at any moment. As she peered inside, she saw Legos, 3 Barbie Dolls, a toy laptop for her 3 year old, and a few Publix gift cards. Lena became overwhelmed. She could not believe how much this one moment could change how she felt about her future. She was elated to be able to use the Publix gift cards to buy everything she needed to make Christmas dinner for her and sister’s family. Finally, she could do something for them, after they have done so much for her.
It was so difficult for Lena and her advocate to get through that appointment. They were both overwhelmed by the emotional experience, by feeling love from such a gracious community. As Lena left that day, she could barely believe her experience at CASA. She walked out of the doors with her head held high, and something told her that Santa just might find out where she and her children would be this year.
Lena and her three children are just 4 of the 283 women and children that received gifts through CASA’s ”Hope for the Holidays” campaign. Each year, these gifts come with something we never expect as staff members – our own feelings of gratitude and hope. Each gift brightens one person’s life, and the gift cards donated help families prepare holiday meals or meet the basic nutritional needs of their families. At CASA, we help families in crisis, but our Hope for the Holidays donors and volunteers are the ones who REALLY change families’ lives. We are just here to share your generosity with our families. Thank you!
A Happy, Tired Elf
By Trina S.
“Are you all going to sleep here?” a staff member asked as she walked into the CASA conference room – turned holiday donation center, where volunteers and staff were still busy at work. It was already dark outside, but we hadn’t noticed. There were no windows in the room and we were having too much fun to pay attention to the time.
Thanks to generous donations from CASA’s supporters, the room was completely filled with toys for tots, things for tweens and packages for moms and teens. There were activity sets for budding artists and crafters; baseballs, basketballs, footballs and soccer balls; puzzles, games, Barbie dolls and Ninja turtles too. And this wasn’t the half of it! CASA’s domestic violence shelter had its own workshop, full of toys donated by the Tampa Bay Rays.
We received new clothes for everyone in the family-- tops, bottoms, pajamas and robes. There were slippers to cozy up in when winter arrives, and flip flops, too. (We do live in Florida after all!) All the goodies came from the hearts of donors, the wish lists from residents and off the continually updated list of urgent needs posted online at www.casa-stpete.org/wishlist.
I was working with other volunteers and staff to carefully arrange all the presents by category and age group to make it easier for “shopping.” There were opportunities for CASA residents and program participants to choose gifts for their children, and a chance for kids to pick out gifts for mom too!
As a volunteer, the best part was packing bags of surprises to match the wish lists generated through CASA’s Outreach department. We took the lists and checked them more than twice, as we searched with the hope of finding the exact toy, or the correct size clothing in someone’s favorite color. What fun imagining the faces of those receiving! This is when I believe all those hours spent sorting were most appreciated.
There are so many ways a volunteer can pitch in to help the CASA community! Right now, however, this exhausted elf is curling up for a nap. She needs her rest in order to be fresh and energetic when volunteering for January’s activities. Happy New Year and hope to see you there!
If you currently donate your time to CASA– a BIG thank you! If not, consider making 2016 a year of adventure as a CASA advocate and volunteer. CASA welcomes people with diverse backgrounds and skills to enrich our programs. Our vision is a community without domestic violence so that home is a safe place. We do that by involving our community—you—in our volunteer program. Learn more at www.casa-stpete.org/volunteer.
Interested in donating food or other items to domestic violence shelter?
Visit www.casa-stpete.org/wishlist to see a list of our most urgent needs.