Dec. 30, 2008 -- With more Americans facing dire financial situations, they are turning to charities for help. That's why organizations that provide basic items like food and clothing need donations now more than ever.
Below are just a few stories of some of the people who benefitted from the 2007 Warm Coats, Warm Hearts drive.
Bringing a Whole Family Back
Becky Orander of the Arlington Life Shelter in Arlington, Texas, writes:
Here at Arlington Life Shelter, the number of clients we serve has increased on average about 20 percent. We are seeing more families with children entering the shelter.
On Dec. 20, 2007, the Jarvis family -- Robert and Lisa Jarvis and their two sons -- entered the Arlington Life Shelter with a few clothes and looking for another chance to get their lives back.
With Christmas coming within a few days, the family entered with concerns about the holidays, having food to eat, and some gifts for their sons. Most importantly, the Jarvis family expressed sincere concerns about having a place to stay.
At Christmas, all family members received a coat for the holidays to keep warm in the Texas cold. They expressed their appreciation, and without transportation, they wore the coats daily as they walked in search of jobs. Their sons were excited to have new coats as they switched to a new school, leaving their friends behind.
Due to living among so many people, the shelter stay became challenging at times for the family. However, the two parents maintained their focus with a positive attitude and completed the program.
Upon completing the residential employment program, they entered Arlington Life Shelter's transitional housing program. Their accomplishments were outstanding. First, they purchased a car, and while in the shelter both parents were able to find full-time jobs. Lisa. Jarvis also started attending school, working toward her bachelor's degree.
Today the family continues on this path of becoming self-sufficient. Their sons continue to excel at school, and they enjoy involvement in the community and in school. It all began for the Jarvis family with warm coats at Christmas; that has led to a future with great possibilities.
Transforming a Life by Giving a Coat
Richard Bray of Saint Vincent de Paul in Seattle, writes:
John was homeless and living under a bridge in Seattle. Like some homeless, he was an alcoholic. One night he had to go to the hospital, and upon his return to his "spot" under the bridge, all his personal belongings were gone. Consequently, he came to St. Vincent de Paul. We outfitted him with a coat, blanket and jeans. We continued to encourage him. John has checked into a rehabilitation program and is now sober and has his own place to live now.
Giving him a warm coat and a couple of other items at a time of great loss for him helped to begin a fantastic turnaround in his life. A warm coat is needed to keep a homeless person warm -- basic human dignity demands we do this. But it can also be the encouragement -- combined with a caring, respectful person reaching out -- that can begin the process for transformation. We call our work "compassion in action" and you never know what a seed of caring will produce.
'I'll Have to Use the Rent Money for Coats'
Paul J. Haagsman of In the Image in Grand Rapids, Miss. writes:
My favorite winter coat story was from a mother who was standing in line waiting for In the Image to open up. She had two children in school, and winter's cold was beginning to move in. She had come to In the Image before her lunch shift at a fast-food restaurant started.
"I sure hope you have winter coats in," she said, " because right now our rent is due, and if you don't have winter coats for my daughters, I'll have to use the rent money for coats."
At this point she paused as she searched for the words that would communicate the desperation she was feeling at that moment. "Either way, if you don't have coats, we end up in the cold."
That pretty much sums up where many working people are nowadays, sums up why the gift of a gently used coat can make a difference, a dramatic difference in the lives of families today. Oh yes, thanks to the generosity of so many caring and compassionate people, we did have winter coats for her and her daughters.