When I was a little girl the hum of my mother’s sewing machine was the first sign that Christmas was coming soon. I would fall asleep dreaming of the gifts she would create with her own imagination and patterns. She would use material from clothes we no longer wore. We had the latest styles for us and Barbie doll clothes that could not be bought. We knew just how special they were because we felt our mother’s love in each creation. I am sure that just like me, each of you has a fond memory of your childhood holidays. Imagine if that were not the case. Imagine if your parents could not even provide you with a meal much less gifts, imagine if you were the little girl who spent your holidays alone crying in your room because your parents did not come home the night before and you had nowhere to go.
At Girls Inc. we are determined to give every girl that walks through our doors the gift of “belonging” to a family that loves her. Girls who enter our centers leave with hope in their heart and the knowledge that someone cares about them. Each year to celebrate the holidays we ask the girls to make a wish list for us and we grant their wishes the best that we can.
Hannah sat down to write her wish list, she suspected her friends were all wishing for iPhones. As much as she wanted one too, she knew this was a chance for her to help her family with things they really needed. The first thing she wrote down was diapers for her baby brother, not very much fun, but it certainly would make her mother’s life easier. Thinking about that, she decided to also wish for a washing machine because her mother was currently washing all of their clothes, by hand, in the kitchen sink.
After finishing her letter, Hannah asked her friends what they had wished for. Many surprised her and like her, had asked for things for their family. One asked for food for her family, another a warm coat for her grandmother because she walks to work in her sweatshirt in the freezing cold and yet another boots for her little sister. The one that surprised Hannah the most was her friend who wished for silverware because her family cannot all eat at the same time because they do not have enough forks and knives. She felt proud of her friends who had decided to take this opportunity to give a gift to someone else rather than keep it for themselves. She told us the best gift she had was the chance to be with her friends at Girls Inc.
This year I am asking you to consider giving girls like Hannah the gift they really want, the gift of Girls Inc. You might be asking yourself, “what kind of a gift is that?’ so I will show you.
Walk with me into the doors of anyone of our three centers and this is what you will experience. You will feel yourself being caught up in the wave of laughter and as the girls burst through the door to tell us about their day and you might just catch yourself smiling as you see how anxious they are to share the events of their day. First thing on their minds is food because after a long day at school they are starving, next get out your running shoes and join them in the gym or the playground for a half an hour of fun and physical fitness, sharpen your pencil and settle down to complete your homework and when that is finished you may join the activity of your choice. You may feel like cooking, practicing your French, building your technology skills in our computer lab, or joining the dance club. Activities vary day to day but the enthusiasm of the girls is always very high!
As you share the joy of the Girls Inc. experience with us there are some things we will not share with you. You will not know that some of these smiling faces will go “home” to an emergency shelter or to their 3rd foster care home or that some went to bed hungry until we opened our dinner club. You will not know about our girls who have been hurt by an adult that was suppose to love and protect them nor will you see the sadness of the 6 year old whose mother said she wished she had never been born. You would not know the pain of the young girl whose mother cut off all of her hair in a jealous rage, or the girl who told us she use to hide under the hood of her sweatshirt, because she was ashamed of how she looked. You will not know these things when you visit our center, because that pain has been replaced by the joy of finding their family at Girls Inc.
Whether you have fond holiday memories of your own or you have experienced the loneliness that comes with not being with your family, this holiday season, you have the power to give the gift of “belonging” to a girl who needs Girls Inc. and you will receive the gift of knowing that you too are part of our family.