Community comes together to change the life of a CAPCIL family.
This story starts off like any other day as the Recruitment Coordinator for Head Start. I was headed out to recruit in one of our six counties in our service areas. I had received a referral from the CAPCIL LIHEAP Director. A family in Dewitt County was in desperate need of our services, so I that is where I started my day. I went to meet the family to start the Head Start application process.
Back Story: How is all started.
A little back story on myself… most of my adult life my profession of choice was to be a Foster Care Social Worker. I have had my share of helping families and stories that will bring you to tears, but this particular day with this family hit me harder than any I had ever experienced. When I showed up to the house, I was welcomed and invited in by the mother and her three children. The children were sitting on the kitchen floor eating cereal and the mom finished up mopping the living room floor. I turned to the mom to talk with her and I noticed that they didn’t have any living room furniture or a kitchen table and chairs for the family to have a meal. The mom filled out the applications for the two kids that were age eligible for our program and as we talked, I asked her how long they had lived there. I was thinking that they had just moved in and were waiting for furniture to arrive, but that wasn’t the answer that I received. They had actually lived there for several months with only a toddler bed and a blow-up mattress. Something inside of me knew that I needed to help this family and I knew that CAPCIL was the place to make it happen.
I came back to the office to ask if this was something that I could take on and the answer was "yes, of course, please help this family with whatever they need." So, over the next several days, I reached out to co-workers from the various CAPCIL programs, and to my friends and my family. The response I received to help this family was overwhelming! People were bringing in clothes, shoes, coats, towels, pillows, blankets, dishes, and so much more. When I reached out to my friends, three of my oldest and dearest friends responded in tremendous ways, one friend was able to work with her family to provide Christmas presents for the girls including new pajamas, new outfits, toys, dolls, books, and games for each of the children. Another friend went to social media to ask for help for this family and that post reached people in other states. People donated items for the family, and I was able to purchase household items like brooms, mops, laundry detergent, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, etc. to help them with daily needs. Another friend, a furniture store owner, purchased and donated three twin beds, and a queen bed, kitchen table with chairs, a sofa, love seat, entertainment center, dressers, and nightstands. All of this so the family wouldn’t have to sleep on the floor and could eat meals as a family at the kitchen table. After he delivered the furniture and got everything set up, I was thanking him for all his help with this and making all this possible for this family. He said the words out loud that I had been thinking since the first day that I met this family… ‘Les, I have never seen anything like this before… they literally had nothing, even their closets were empty’. He in turn thanked me for thinking of him, letting him help me with this, and to help make this family’s life a little easier with a little less worry.
When I delivered the donations, the kids were saying things like "mommy we don’t have to sleep on the floor anymore. We have pillows, blankets, and towels!" I have never seen children under the age of five so excited to have the necessities that we all take for granted. I didn’t bring them an Xbox, an iPad, or anything fun that kids want these days but the pure joy and appreciation on their faces for the things that I did bring was a sight to see. I am not sure how I was able to hold it together on delivery day with all the thank you hugs I received from the family. The pure excitement on the kids’ faces is something that I will never forget.
Touching the heart
I think back to that first day that I met this family. They never asked me for anything, and all mom wanted was to get her kids into school. I inserted myself into their lives by asking what I could help her with and telling her that I would try to get her some things she might need. I had no idea that one little ask could turn into all of this. The helping hand-up that this family received will have long term impact and hopefully keeps them out of that situation again down the road. I will be profoundly changed for the rest of my life, not only because I was able to help this family but from seeing the generosity from strangers, co-workers, friends, family and loved ones that stepped up to help this family. A family they would never meet and knew nothing about. Out of all the people that made donations for this family, not one asked for anything in return. They only asked what else? What else does this family need?
I hope this impact story about this family can help us all stop what we are doing in our crazy busy lives and ask that same question, what else can I do to help?
Written by: Leslie Keller, Head Start Recruitment Coordinator
Edited by: Breann Titus, Director of Agency Development