Having children makes us all remember the magic of this time of year. The sparkle in their eyes as you unpack the decorations. The inevitable laughter from watching their favorite holiday movie — for the hundredth time. The palpable warmth that comes from snuggling beside each other as you sip hot chocolate (even if you wore shorts just yesterday). The pure joy of watching your child open the gift he or she so desperately wanted.
For some families, however, the holiday season is not as joyous. Parents are dealing with job loss, illness and difficult circumstances. Some have lost their homes. Children’s tummies are rumbling. The simple joys of the holidays are suddenly not so simple.
That’s why we here at LiveMom started the Season of Giving, a time each year when we can recognize that there is more to this time of year than the perfect centerpiece, the over-the-top meal and the mountain of wrapping paper when the presents are opened. It’s a time when we demonstrate our commitment to building a stronger village. It’s a time to show our children that we can all make a difference in our community, and that giving is something we can do all year long. And, perhaps most importantly, that there can be joy in the giving as well as the receiving.
When it starts to become cold, I think about them more. “Them” being the homeless men and women that pace with their signs at a light where I find myself sitting nearly every day. Do they have a safe place to sleep tonight? What kind of a holiday season will they have? On days that the woman with her sign that reads “Everything helps” isn’t there, I worry that something’s happened to her.
When I was researching Austin charities, I thought about Green Doors, which is a nonprofit working to prevent and help end homelessness and poverty housing for those working to achieve independent living in Central Texas. We featured Frank Fernandez, Green Doors’ Executive Director, in our Father’s Day article last year. I was shocked to see this statistic on the Green Doors’ homepage:
7: The average age of a homeless person in Austin.
In fact, there are 4,000 children struggling with the issues of homelessness in Central Texas alone.
Green Doors works to further its mission by creating affordable, safe, quality housing; providing residents with access to supportive services; and educating about, and advocating for, individuals and families struggling with homelessness and at-risk for homelessness.
WAYS TO HELP
If you’d like to help the homeless women, men and children in our community, here are a few things you can do:
You can donate online. Here are a few ways your donation can be utilized:
- $10 nutritiously feeds a family of four at the Green Doors Food Pantry on any given week. Hundreds of families and individuals, struggling with or at risk of homelessness, collect one box of wholesome food, including meats and produce, per year.
- $20 provides a bus pass to one veteran per month, as they navigate Austin’s resources and gain/maintain employment. Green Doors supports its veterans with transitional and affordable housing first, but provides access to supportive services, like help with transportation, to give them the tools they need to succeed.
- $30 pays for one interior door at an apartment at Green Doors’ neighborhood revitalization project, Pecan Springs Commons.
- $50 pays for one low-flow shower head to help with the energy efficiency of Green Doors’ supportive housing programs.
- $100 provides Green Doors households with access to household supplies for a 6 week period. Supplies include cleaning and paper products, body soap, laundry and dish washer detergent, and zip lock bags, among other things.
- $600 builds a five-star green bathroom including a low-flow shower head, low VOC paint, and energy efficient toilets for vulnerable individuals and families in need of affordable, safe, quality housing. To Green Doors, sustainable housing means sustainable livelihoods.
- $1,200 provides Green Doors’ residents affected by a disability a very important but often overlooked amenity. ADA (American Disability Act) accessible showers, otherwise known as roll-in showers, are hard to find in affordable housing developments. But Green Doors has them! A $1,200 investment provides a person affected by a disability with access to a fundamental need – a shower.
Donate items on Green Doors’ wishlist
Green Doors’ clients are currently in need of:
- Canned meats (i.e. tuna, chicken), jellies (i.e. grape jelly), oil, salt and pepper or sugar and sweetener for the Food Pantry
- USB Sticks, sets of dishes or pots and pans, movies on DVD or games (i.e. chess board), toilet paper, paper towels, household cleaning supplies and toiletries for the Houses
If you’d like to give the gift of time, you might consider helping with landscaping or distributing food at Green Doors’ Food Pantry. Volunteering is limited to individuals over 18 years of age, so it would need to be a kid-free activity. If you are interested in helping out (landscaping work will start again in the spring), please contact Cynthia Munoz.
So when you encounter those “first world problems” the next few weeks, such as not finding the toy for your children or dealing with the aggravations of holiday travel, consider this quote from a former Green Doors resident:
“So much can be accomplished when the question, ‘where am I going to sleep tonight’ no longer needs to be asked…”
How does your family talk about homelessness? Have you ever tried to do any volunteer work as a family in the community?
Images courtesy of Green Doors.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.livemom.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Nicole-Basham-Sara-Marzani-Photography-livemom.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]A native Austinite and soccer-playing mom, Nicole uses her 6-year-old son as an excuse to rediscover her hometown through his eyes. In Thoreau’s words, her mission is to “suck out all the marrow of life”, or in her son’s words, to cultivate in him a love of “advenchers”.[/author_info] [/author]