“When I saw all the Christmas presents, I just broke down and cried. Never did I ever dream that anyone would do that for me and my kids.” She smiled, remembering. “It made us feel like we were finally in the right place, that maybe just maybe things might turn out all right for us after all.”
Ella was describing her first Christmas in Homestretch, when her family was “adopted” for the holidays, meaning that some nice group of strangers had bought gifts for her and her children from a list given to them by Homestretch, our program for homeless parents with children. She was amazed that the list included everything that the children wanted.
“I didn’t have a penny to spend, just coming from a homeless shelter, and no job, no savings,” Ella said. “I had told them that this year, Santa couldn’t come to our home because, well, we didn’t have a home.”
She laughed. “But Santa knew where Homestretch was! Coming into Homestretch gave us the best Christmas ever. And not just the gifts. We were safe. Somebody cared for us enough to give us the best Christmas ever. It gave us hope. It gave me hope and I sure needed hope, after all the terrible things that had happened.”
She and her kids had fled to a homeless shelter after the abuse by her husband became so bad that she feared for her life. Ella had fled once before, but had gone back in hopes of making the marriage work. “I wanted to believe our marriage wasn’t a mistake,”, she said. His violent behavior got worse, and soon even her children were terrified of him. So, this had been her second trip to a homeless shelter, and being so close to Christmas, she felt like a failure. Until Homestretch gave her and her children a home, and some loving family unknown to her had bought her family a load of Christmas presents.
“For my kids, it was about getting toys. But for me, it was about starting over, and knowing that I had people who believed in me and cared for my family. Their faith in me gave me faith in myself. With that, I could accomplish anything.”
And that she did, going on to find a job, getting promoted to manager, and finally earning enough to move into a home of her own with her children. Small acts of kindness are never wasted. For Ella, holiday gifts from people she had never even met helped to ignite the faith in herself to start a wonderful new life.
By Homestretch Executive Director Christopher Fay