Every December I find myself spending a lot of time in the basement at Calvary Women’s Shelter. Usually I try to get out of going down there. It looks a lot like what you are picturing, and, not being a huge basement, it can be challenging to navigate around all of the toilet paper, cleaning products and other supplies. It can be a rather dreary place to be.
But at the holidays, the basement transcends its usual utilitarian self to become a hub of festive activity.
Thanks to many generous donors, the basement fills up with gifts for women in our programs. Some of the gifts are personal – like warm hats and gloves, soft sweatshirts, new pajamas and fuzzy slippers. Others are more practical – new sheets, blankets, towels and pillows.
The gifts come from all kinds of people: families, congregations, offices, schools, scout troops, even a youth cheerleading team. There is one retired woman who knits new hats for all of the women at Calvary every year.
Throughout December staff and volunteers are busy bringing gifts in and out of the basement, getting them wrapped and sorted and ready to give out. As the month goes on the cinderblock walls fade out of sight as an impromptu Santa’s workshop fills up with brightly wrapped packages.
Standing in Calvary’s basement in December is a great reminder to me of how generous people are and how so many people work to make the holidays about more than themselves and their own families.
The impact of these gifts lasts longer than this season. The gifts and supplies we get this month will help women who are at Calvary now have happy holidays. And some will also last us into the spring, welcoming more women off of the streets and into clean beds, providing supplies for educational classes, and offering nutritious breakfasts for many mornings to come.
It’s an amazing thing to be a part of. For a few weeks I don’t really mind going to the basement.
**Do you want to get involved? You can make a financial donation or give a gift from Calvary’s Holiday Wish List. Or join us for Holiday Give Back 2009, a reception for Calvary Women’s Services on Capitol Hill on December 16, where we will be collecting items from a special holiday wish list. More details can be found here.