By Michael Hicks
Communications Director, A Woman’s Place
The beaming three-year old picked up a holiday gift tag from among those scattered around the gift wrapping station and joyfully tucked it into the bag containing the Yuletide present he’d selected for his mother. Volunteer “elves” who had helped him choose a present to give her from among the room full of beautiful donated items (jewelry, perfume, scarves, etc.) laughed kindly and asked if he was ready to go back to her now.
He wasn’t. “And THIS one!” he cried out, finding a happy snowman tag and tucking that in as well.
You’d have to be a Grinch not to smile. And smiles – while not universal – were certainly in abundance at the annual client holiday party held recently by A Woman’s Place (AWP).
With dozens of children in attendance, ranging in age from infants to teenagers, I was braced for total bedlam. Instead of noisy chaos, however, there was a palpable sense of calm and playfulness that prevailed. Sure, the occasional sibling squabble erupted (“Hey, that’s MY balloon!”) but in general the kids were model citizens: cooperative, considerate, and kind to one another.
As they waited for their turn to select a gift for mom, the kids patiently cued up to have their faces painted, to try their hand at juggling, or receive a customized balloon (inflatable bows and arrows were all the rage). Those so inclined could make holiday paper crafts, string beads, or hand decorate ornaments. And of course, Santa and Mrs. Claus paid a visit to any child interested. Older teens seemed to relish the chance to let their guard down and play with the younger ones.
The moms were more diverse in their reactions. Most seemed relaxed, feeling they were in a safe place, among others who understood them. Some clearly took great satisfaction in watching their children enjoy a meal and fun activities with other youngsters. It made me wonder how long it might have been since they last had that pleasure.
Unsurprisingly, a few moms had wary looks. Whatever abuse they had experienced, it still haunted them. Yet at evening’s end, all of them were amazed by the abundance of take home items: new coats for the kids, big bags of non-perishable food, gift certificates to AWP’s “In Full Swing” thrift store and other area shopping places, and even leftovers of hot dinner and sweet desserts. All of these made possible by the generosity of AWP donors and volunteers.
Helping her carry things out to the bus, one overwhelmed mother kept exclaiming, “Oh my. God bless you!” Witnessing so much happiness, I must confess… I did indeed feel quite blessed.
Michael Hicks is Communications Manager at A Woman’s Place (AWP), a community-based social change organization committed to the empowerment of women and to ending intimate and domestic violence for all. AWP offers free, private, and confidential services, support, and education to victims of domestic violence, their children, and the community.