Most people’s Christmas wishes don’t include shampoo, toothbrushes or diapers.
But for participants in the YWCA Adopt-a-Family holiday program, sensible items often top the list.
“Most of their requests are for really practical items,” said Jackie Brown, director of the ALIVE Shelter. “They aren’t asking for Leapfrogs or iPods.”
The ALIVE Shelter is part of the YWCA of Kitsap County, an organization that focuses on supporting families overcome difficult times, and often the struggles are related to domestic violence.
The ALIVE Shelter provides temporary housing for victims of domestic violence and their children. According to Brown, the shelter has room for 17 people and it is always full. Along with the shelter, the YWCA lends support with legal advocacy, a clothing bank and help in obtaining permanent housing.
“Often people come to the shelter with nothing but what they are wearing,” Brown said. “We’ve had people arrive right at Christmas.” Donors know this can happen and some specifically purchase gifts that appeal to a wide-range of ages and tastes.
Each year, an average of 300 people receive gifts donated through the Adopt-a-Family program. Often recipients have jobs, but cannot financially afford to buy gifts for their children.
Linda Joyce, executive director of the YWCA told of one woman who lived at the shelter and then participated in other programs offered through the YWCA. For three years, she received assistance during the holidays, but one year told Joyce she wasn’t going to sign up for the Adopt-a-Family program.
“ ‘Don’t you need things?’ I asked her. She said, ‘Yes, but I’ve received for long enough and I want others to get things,’ ” Joyce recalled.
With wishlists in hand, donors hit the stores in search of the special requests for families they will probably never meet. Items include clothing and toys, as well as personal hygiene products.Donors are comprised of local businesses, offices, clubs and individuals.
“We’ve had families come in who say that instead of buying gifts for each other, they want to buy for others who are experiencing a difficult time,” Joyce said.
Debbie Brockman, ALIVE family services director, wrote, “Many of our donors are struggling themselves but they makepersonal sacrifices in order to make sure they help at least one child have a happy holiday.”
Some local children collect coins all year long for this project and bring in their donations to the YWCA, pouring the contents onto the receptionist’s desk.
“How can you not turn to mush?,” YWCA staff member JoAnne Barker said.
A highlight of the season is the annual party where clients and families celebrate the holidays. For years, Barker’s family has played the role of Santa and his elves. And even though her children are now adults, they don’t miss coming back for the event.
“Seeing the faces of the families and the joy in their eyes and the love they have for each other, that’s why we do it,” Barker said.
Joyce agreed with her sentiment, saying that the craziness surrounding the holidays — people spraying pepper spray and trampling others to get Black Friday deals — isn’t seen at the YWCA. Instead, they see thankfulness and gratitude.
Staff member Rosario Guzman chimed in and said around this time of year they experience more hugs and tears of joy.
Working at the YWCA during the holidays helps to restore Brockman’s faith in the goodness of people and she said the generosity of the community is remarkable.
“We see the evolution of people’s lives,” Joyce said. “We want the community to know that when they invest their resources with us, they change lives.”
And then she added, “It’s good for the soul.”
Interested in donating?
The YWCA will accept gift donations until Dec. 23. New items to consider donating are baby supplies, clothes, gift cards for gas and groceries, personal hygiene products, and toys. If the toys you are donating require batteries, make sure to include the appropriate size and number of batteries needed. Info: (360) 479-0522; www.ywcakitsap.org.
Website has useful information
The U.S. statistics are daunting: Twenty-five percent of women have experienced domestic violence. On average, every day, three women and one man are killed by their partners. (This is according to the Domestic Violence Resource Center.)
A domestic violence survivor living in Kitsap has created a useful website for victims who find themselves in an abusive situation. Her website contains more than 20 categories and provides a wealth of information. It also provides an outlet for others to share their domestic violence survival stories.
The website creator hopes to help victims realize domestic violence does not define who they are, but rather it’s the situation they are stuck in, and one in which they should get out.
“When I created the website, my goal was to help 12 people,” she said. “But now I have 85-90 viewers a day, and I’ve reached 90 nations.”