The (Good) Ghost of Christmas Past

by Patti Trapp, Humility of Mary Housing Volunteer Director

christmas past
There’s much to learn from Christmas of the past.

One Christmas stands out in my mind as eventful, humorous and still life-altering. I’d like to share it, because I live its lesson every day at Humility of Mary Housing as the volunteer director.

Over fifty years ago, the world was a different place. I was much younger, impressionable and my eyes of innocence and wonder still see the memory of that eventful Christmas.

We spent Christmas at my Grandmother’s farmhouse, north of Peoria. Barren cornfields, swept clean by chill winter winds, surrounded her house. The rambling farmhouse had two stories, and there were so many of us that the only room large enough for us all to sit down together for dinner was the basement.

Christmas farmhouse
a Christmas farmhouse. Photo credit: Scott Mather, Wikimedia Commons

Typically, the women were in the kitchen: cooking and gossiping. The men gathered around the television, swapping stories. The 30+ grandchildren were running and playing. My great, great grandmother and my great grandmother sat quietly in their chairs in the living room taking in the antics of the children while two of my aunts, both hard of hearing, sat near the men, one hand cupped around their good ear to hear, each with a can of Budweiser at the ready.

Mischief was in the air. The older boys pulled my cousin Ted aside and convinced him to climb into the laundry shoot. Ted was younger than I, a fireball of energy: thin, glasses secured to his head with a rubber band that ran around the back, and both ears sporting hearing aids. Poor Ted, he was born a geek before geek was a word. But Ted was always game for any challenge. That was pure Ted.

Into the laundry shoot Ted dove, and he started sliding down from the second floor. The other boys ran down the stairs, snaked their way through the kitchen of cooks and then raced down the stairs to the basement. They waited by a pile of pillows and blankets that were strategically located below the hole in the ceiling in front of the washer.

Ted never appeared.

The boys ran back upstairs to see if Ted had come back out the laundry shoot, but there was no Ted.  Meanwhile, Grandma–her head over the turkey to bast it–thought she heard someone crying. There were no shouts: no child came running in tears, so she assumed it was the wind whistling in the eaves. I think the boys made the trip from upstairs to basement and back again twice before they concluded that their idea was flawed.

Ted was stuck inside the wall. The fathers had to be told. Though I don’t remember, Jack was probably sent as the bearer of bad news, since he was the oldest. Pandemonium broke out as an intense search ensued. Someone soon discovered that Ted was behind the kitchen wall… somewhere, roughly, behind the oven.

My uncle was a volunteer fireman and deemed this a simple rescue. Ted was able to tell them he was fine. All of my uncles and my father had built their own homes, they had the tools and the knowledge necessary to execute a rescue. The food, in various stages of prep, was moved into the dining room and covered. The turkey was removed and the oven shut off. Uncle Bud went for his tools while kitchen cabinets were emptied. Part of the kitchen was dismantled, the oven was pulled from the wall and the laundry shoot was exposed. Soon Ted rejoined the family and regaled us all with tales of his adventure.

My family as a whole seemed blessed with a spirit of serving. The two aunts with the cans of Budweiser were among them. One worked as a teacher at a school for the deaf and the other was the first female to hold a political office it the State of Illinois.

Volunteering: A Christmas Lesson

firefighter
Volunteer firefighters give service to the community.

I don’t remember much else about that day.  We celebrated Christmas, opened presents and enjoyed dinner. But, that day was a pivotal point for many of us grandkids. We were involved in a real life rescue.   Almost all of those older boys have gone on to join the fire department as volunteers; one serves as Fire Chief. The girls became volunteers as well, including serving on a suicide prevention hotline. And I work as the volunteer coordinator at Humility of Mary Housing. I know how critical it is to get people to help and how lives can be changed and influenced by those who serve.  And Ted? Ted went on to help build an IT business with his brother; he is now semi-retired and doing philanthropic work.

Volunteering takes so little from us and rewards us greatly in many ways we can’t begin to count or see.  I hope this Christmas story has brought a smile and revived humorous memories of your own.  As we wind down 2015 and look towards 2016, I hope you will place volunteerism on your must-do list for 2016. We need all the hands we can get! Call me to set up a time to discuss, 563-326-1330. Happy Holidays!

Help HMHI give 10 families a home for the holidays!

a home for holidays
What better gift can we give a family experiencing homelessness than a home for the holidays? Be part of the magic! Volunteer!

We at HMHI have an immediate need for volunteers to help prepare apartments for ten families to move in before Christmas.  Dates of need are fluid; flexibility will be a key.

Volunteers will be deep cleaning; kitchens, bathrooms and other living areas. It’s all interior work. All work will be done Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 am and 4 pm.  No evenings or Saturdays involved. We will provide cleaning materials and supplies for you and/or your group. We will accommodate your availability.

Together we can get ten families out of the cold and into their own home for Christmas.  What better gift can any of us give than this?!  Please call Patti for further details and to sign up, 563-326-1330.

Quad City Dining Tour Book Offers Great Deal

Quad Cities Dining Book
Purchase the Quad Cities Dining Book at our office at 3805 Mississippi Avenue.

For over 20 years, the Quad Cities Dining Tour coupon book gives local residents a great frugal opportunity to enjoy restaurants at a great savings. Filled with coupons for fine dining, theater, casual dining, pizza and fast foods, this value-filled opportunity book is yours for $35 at our office at 3805 Mississippi Avenue in Davenport. It pays for itself in savings–you save money with every coupon you use! And your purchase helps our families who are suffering homelessness.

The Quad Cities Dining Tour Book contains over 350 buy “one- get one” coupons to 135 local restaurants. Its reputation speaks for itself. If you enjoy eating out, this is a deal you can’t miss. It’s perfect for people who enjoy trying new restaurants, too. And, you have the added benefit of knowing that by purchasing the coupon book you’re helping families who are in need.

With its leatherette cover and gold foil stamping, the coupon book makes a great gift for your area friends and family members. Give them a gift they can enjoy over and over, all year long. All coupons are valid until October 31, 2016.

Stop in at our offices to purchase as many Quad Cities Dining Tour Books as you’d like during our business hours, Monday through Friday from 8 AM until 4 PM.

FLASH Mini-Sale November 12

Flash sale
Humility of Mary Housing will hold a FLASH sale in Gertrude’s Boutique on November 12 for four hours only–from 9 AM-1 PM.

Ready to giveGertrude’s Boutique at Humility of Mary Housing will hold a pre-holiday FLASH mini-sale on Thursday, November 12. This sale will last only between 9 AM and 1 PM. It’s a special clearance sale. All our merchandise is available for sale at bargain prices.

There’s an abundance of winter clothing for men, women and children. You’ll find lots household items.

christmas items
Christmas and seasonal items

This is a perfect time to replenish your Christmas decor. And, there’s lots of specialty items just in time to use this holiday season. Make your Christmas extra special for family and guests. They’ll never know you did it so frugally!

collectible gifts
Collectible gifts

All clothing is sorted, sized and neatly hung. That makes shopping a breeze. Gertrudes Boutique provides “garage sale” pricing in a comfortable, climate controlled environment.

There are classic and collectible items–you’re likely to find gifts for family and friends. But, you’re sure to find items you can use and enjoy yourself.

 

Monthly program enriches HMHI children

If the Great Pumpkin came to visit Linus in the pumpkin patch, what would he look like?

HMHI children & pumpkinsWith this imagination-stretching question, the HMHI participating children are challenged to engage in creative thinking during October. Each month there’s a new activity or project in store for them, all designed by HMHI employee Mozella Stokes. Mozella is a favorite of all our participating children, because she never fails to stop whatever she’s doing as HMHI’s receptionist and office manager to greet each with a warm embrace when they visit the office with their parent.

To add extra excitement to the activities, Mozella searches out sponsors for the monthly projects. Sometimes that sponsor will provide materials for the children’s projects. Sometimes they’ll offer a demonstration the kids can attend and learn from. Sometimes they’ll provide an incentive, reward or award to one of the kids enrolled in the activity. For instance, this month Target provided a gift card that will be given to one of the students who contributes a Great Pumpkin image to the display in HMHI’s reception room.

Mozella
Mozella Stokes

Adding extra fun this month, Mozella offered a Family Activity in the spirit of Halloween. Each family has the opportunity to create a family themed Halloween costume photo. They can choose one of the suggested themes: the 70’s, sports, disco, super heroes, or TV family. Using our clothing closet contributions, they design costumes in that theme and take a family photo. One lucky family will win a family night out at Happy Joe’s, courtesy of Happy Joe’s.

The HMHI children are special to us. As we assist their parents directly, we realize that we’re also providing a stable environment so that the children can continue their important work at school uninterrupted. Babies, toddlers and preschool children need reliable surroundings so that they can continue their growth and development and explore their world safely.

HMHI children
Providing an enriching and stable environment underlies our mission at HMHI.

 

This Christmas, Adopt a Family That’s Battling Homelessness

Christmas presents
You can brighten the holidays for a family experiencing homelessness!

Feel that nip in the air?! It’s not too soon to plan for Christmas, an annual time of giving. Take advantage of this very appropriate season to assist a single-parent family that’s battling to escape homelessness. Humility of Mary Housing is pleased to connect you with one of our 47 families in need. Through our Christmas giving program, you can provide gifts for an entire single-parent family in recovery from homelessness or for an individual in our program and brighten their holiday season.

The Christmas Giving Program

Our Christmas Giving Program receives needs and wishes from the children and the parents we assisHMHI family at Christmast at HMHI. You simply contact us by phone at 563/326-1330 and let us know how you’d like to help. If you decide to sponsor a family, we’ll share with you the ages, genders and wishes of one of our families. You may participate as an individual or in conjunction with:

  • your business team,
  • your family,
  • your community or church group.

There’s another option. You may prefer to choose an idea from the “Gift that Keeps Giving” list [pdf download here]. Ideas include bus tokens, donate your old car to a family without a vehicle, gift card to a pharmacy for medicine, laundry soap and diapers; donate to cover education expenses for a parent trying to better themselves, gift card for haircuts to look good for an interview.

You may even volunteer to help prepare donations for families to use. There are so many ways you can help!

How to Help

Contact us if you’d like to choose gifts to make our participants’ wishes come true. We’ll send you the information. You can select and purchase the gifts you’d like to contribute to bring holiday happiness to a family in need of a permanent home.

Then, drop off the new, unwrapped gifts (or gift cards) at our office no later than December 11.

Please think about supporting these transitioning families this holiday. They have little and can use your goodness and assistance. For more information–or to volunteer to participate–phone us at 563/326-1330, ext. 105. With community support, these families can begin to dream of a better life again.

adopt family Christmas

A new, important volunteer opportunity at HMHI

Gertrude's Fresh Start Boutique

We’re looking for people just like you!  Humility of Mary Housing needs volunteers to help in Gertrude’s Fresh Start Boutique/Donation Center. People of all ages and abilities can contribute here. When they do, they support a project that directly assists single parents and their families who are escaping from homelessness.

warehouse
These items help families who have nothing, giving hope and support.

We provide a furnished apartment and free access to clothing and home necessities for all our program families. People from across the Quad Cities Area contribute items that help this cause. It’s crucial that these donations are checked in, sorted, and tested so that they can be made available to participant families. We arrange them attractively, so that our families can enjoy the experience of selecting the things they need.

We’re happy to talk to your church or civic group about this opportunity. Contact our volunteer coordinator, Patti, to arrange for her to visit with you or speak to your group.

This volunteer opportunity is love in action; you know you are making a difference in someone’s life! Call for details, 563-326-1330 x 105.

volunteer

Krispy Kreme doughnuts for sale at HMHI, September 26

Krispy Kreme
Purchase Krispy Kreme donuts at HMHI on Saturday, September 26.

You can buy Krispy Kreme doughnuts at HMHI on Saturday, September 26 during the Fresh Start Benefit Sale. Sales will begin at 8 am and last until we’ve sold all the doughnuts. This gives you the opportunity to purchase genuine, fresh Krispy Kreme’s locally.

A box of a dozen doughnuts costs $8.00.

Pre-order now and pick up fresh at the sale! Call 563-326-1330 to place your orders!

The Fresh Start Benefit Sale will run Friday and Saturday, September 25-26, but the doughnut sales are only on Saturday. While you are on site to pick up your doughnuts, you can take advantage of the tremendous sales on new and gently used items at the Fresh Start Sale.

All proceeds from doughnut sales as well as from the Fresh Start Benefit Sale will assist local single parent families that are experiencing homelessness.

Autumn Reflections on Working to Alleviate Homelessness

autumn bermAutumn brings familiar seasonal changes, leading us to reflect on our lives. At HMHI, we also reflect on our work. Autumn reminds us of how important is this work that you, our supporters, empower us to do.

Autumn begins in September, the month we recall 9/11/2001 and the horrors and sorrow that the U.S. experienced as a nation in the aftermath of an attack. We did not provoke that attack; rather, we were living our lives and were attacked suddenly and without warning.

That event was completely out of our control. For many the domino affect must have been overwhelming and devastating.

This is the nightmare of a person living as homeless. Through no fault of their own–and sometimes without warning–they find themselves in a desperate situation. You see, not all homeless situations are caused by drug or alcohol abuse or gambling addictions. Homeless situations arise from:

  • fire,
  • death of a spouse,
  • catastrophic illness,
  • accident,
  • abuse or
  • divorce.

In some cases homelessness can happen in an instant. Life changes abruptly and will never be the same. Without a home, parents are left scrambling. They don’t know what they’ll do, how they’ll survive. They don’t know how to protect their children and carry on.

gloomy clouds
Overcast days reflect the dismal situations facing families suffering homelessness.

Homelessness happens to people who’ve never before needed assistance services. They don’t know the support system or how to access it. In many cases they are embarrassed. They never imagined they’d be in this situation.

Our hearts break for these families. It’s a “there but by the Grace of God go I” scenario.  Because, any of us could face this possibility.

Can you imagine working hard all your life only, for instance, to lose it all due to an auto accident?

Recovery exhausts your savings. Your employment replaced you. You have no job and more bills than you can handle. The bank is foreclosing. You and your children will be homeless. 

Can you imagine telling your children the night before your home is seized that tomorrow everyone will sleep in the car? Can you imagine swallowing fear as you try to appear positive so your children aren’t afraid?

This happens here in the Quad Cities. So, at HMHI we provide a home for single parents with children

  • who must struggle to keep their families together,
  • who want to retain custody of their children,
  • who need to keep their children fed, clothed and in school during crisis.
autumn apartment
Stability for a family suffering homelessness: donated items decorate their apartment home for the autumn season.

Our generous donors bring us usable household items, and we’re able to provide a furnished apartment. Our parents can “shop” for free in Gertrude’s Boutique for items they need to make their new apartment a home and haven.

We also give parents the opportunity to increase their education and job skills, while gaining stability. In this process we also help their children. New positive memories and sweet sleep replace their nightmares. Children’s schooling stabilizes. They can continue to achieve their goals.

Autumn, a time of harvest, reminds us of that most important mission here at HMHI.  With your help, we give parents and children the opportunity to again dare to dream and achieve. Thank you for making that happen!

fall reflections

Jazz Brunch 2015 Honors Sister Mary Ann Vogel, CHM

Sister Mary Ann Vogel
Jazz Brunch 2015 will honor Sister Mary Ann Vogel, CHM for her outstanding contributions to the success of the nonprofit agency.

Sister Mary Ann Vogel, CHM would never claim the title “Founder” of Humility of Mary Housing, Inc., but she helped birth the agency. And, she has served in a wide variety of roles throughout the agency’s twenty-five year history. On Sunday, September 20, HMHI will honor Sister Mary Ann for her contributions throughout the years at the sixth annual benefit Jazz Brunch.

During the 1980’s, Sister Mary Ann participated in the original “Dream Team,” with other members of the Congregation of Humility of Mary. For three years, the group explored unmet needs in the Quad Cities. They learned that the greatest need was affordable housing, particularly for the elderly and for single parents. The sisters chose to focus on single parents who were homeless. From the start, their goal was to create change in those parents’ lives.

“We’re serving two generations at once,” Sister Mary Ann is fond of saying. Ask her to explain, and she’ll tell you about Connie, HMHI’s first participant in 1990. Connie was beginning her senior year at St Ambrose University and had just given birth to a baby girl but had no place to live. Connie finished her degree, eventually married and had two other children. Today, she’s employed in management at ALCOA.

foundationEven better: that baby girl who came with Connie 25 years ago eventually graduated from college with honors herself. She now teaches at an inner city Head Start program, and she purchased her first home last year. Connie credits Humility of Mary Housing for their family’s success, saying, “This program not only gave us a roof over our heads but the foundation under our feet upon which we build the rest of our lives.” Those words are painted on HMHI’s office walls.

HMHI leaders cut ribbon on new offices
Sister Mary Ann Vogel (2nd from left) helped cut the ribbon on HMHI’s current office building in 2011.

Sister Mary Ann has contributed in several important roles at HMHI. She served as a site manager at a building complex for single parents recovering from addictions. There, she lived among the families to provide extra support and stability as they strove toward housing security. For years, she volunteered to provide childcare for the program’s children while their parents attended group meetings. She served as HMHI’s Finance Director for 15 years, relinquishing that title only recently, while still offering support to the Finance Department. She served on the agency’s initial Board of Directors, and she coordinated agency volunteers. Sister Mary Ann also convened and headed HMHI’s Development Committee.

Mary Ann Vogel, CHM
Sister Mary Ann Vogel, CHM has served as Master of Ceremonies for previous Jazz Brunch events (2014 photo).

It was an easy decision to single her out for recognition at the Jazz Brunch, according to Sandi Burrichter. “Sister Mary Ann and the “Dream Team”–along with the other sisters of the Congregation of Humility of Mary order–sought and undertook a project that would serve a need in the Quad Cities. They decided to assist and empower single parents and their children while the family worked toward goals that would enable them to live independent, self-sufficient lives. The end result was Humility of Mary Housing.”

Sister Mary Ann never wavered in this commitment. Sandi continued:

“She has made Humility of Mary Housing her mission for the past 25 years–leading the agency and staff to provide immediate, vital assistance directly to homeless, single parents.”

Reservations for the Jazz Brunch may be made by contacting the Humility of Mary Housing office at 563/326-1330.