This gift helps a family get away for a day |

This gift helps a family get away for a day

For the past three years an anonymous business has offered a Christmas gift. It works something like this. They contact Project MANA and ask us to recommend a deserving family. We contact other social service agencies for recommendations, and our staff reviews all the recommendations and makes the one we feel would benefit the most from the business generous offer. The deserving family is treated to Christmas Eve dinner in a first-class restaurant and an overnight stay in a suite at a luxurious hotel, complete with a tree and gifts for the whole family. On Christmas Day they are treated to room service breakfast before heading back home. In making our decision, we keep in mind that families have different needs. Most are content and happy to know they will have a warm home, food on the table and a few gifts for Christmas. The recipients we choose are families that have had a particular hard time or run of bad luck and need a boost in spirit.

The first year, we selected a single mother with three young children. The mother, a working teacher in our school system, had just broken away from an abusive relationship a few months before the holidays. Her single salary was not sufficient to keep up with her mortgage payments and she lost her home. Desperate, with no place to go, she moved into a motel. Every day was a struggle and it was all she could do to keep a smile on her face. The holidays made things worse because she could not afford to buy gifts for her children. When we told her about her Christmas gift she broke down and sobbed. After just one day and night of being treated like a queen she came back with a new outlook determined to get back on her feet and make the best life she could for her and her children.

Last year we selected a single mother with four children. The kids ranged in age from a 6-month-old to her 13-year-old son who had become the man of the house since the father had abandoned the family. By working six days a week as a housecleaner, Anna (not her real name) was able to afford a one-room cabin. What impressed us most about Anna was that despite seemingly overwhelming odds, she was determined to provide the support and guidance her children needed to grow as healthy, productive individuals. She attended all school functions with her school-aged kids. She also attended a Thanksgiving cooking class. When a newspaper reporter asked her why she was there, she replied that her children were born in the U.S. and she wanted them to know and appreciate Thanksgiving. She was taking the class so she could make Thanksgiving a special day for her children.

Despite a hectic schedule, she made the time to attend parenting classes at night so she could be the best parent she could be. Anna also cried when she received the Christmas gift. I should mention that Anna needed help getting her family to the hotel located 20 miles from her home. A local businessman and friend did not hesitate when I asked for his help. He made sure Anna and her family got there and back safely.Anna is doing well these days. She still works cleaning houses and she has somehow managed to develop another business that she runs out of her home. The last we heard she was thinking about moving to a bigger place.Currently we are reviewing recommendations for the third family to receive the Christmas gift. Hopefully they will get to relax, forget about all their worries for a day and feel the true spirit of Christmas. Happy holidays and a safe prosperous New Year to all!George LeBard is the executive director of Project MANA, the hunger relief organization serving the North and West Shores of Lake Tahoe and Truckee.

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