Christmas at Palmetto Place

Happy New Year! I hope 2013 has begun on a positive, happy note for you. I thought I’d share Palmetto Place’s Christmas holiday with you today. First let me say that Christmas for 15 kids is quite a feat, one that we couldn’t possibly pull off by ourselves. It truly takes a village to provide gifts for that many kids. We have a wonderful group of families, churches and business who “adopt” each of our residents for Christmas gifts.

Each resident writes a letter to Santa and that is an adventure in and of itself! Just like your own kids, some of ours have rather lofty Christmas wishes, like TVs, laptops, etc. We help them come up with more reasonable gifts. Other kids just ask for a visit with their families at Christmas. One teenager had only one item in her letter to Santa: contact lens solution. We didn’t even know she wore contacts until we read the letter! Needless to say, she had contact lens solution immediately.

We include clothing and shoe sizes on every resident’s wish list because so many kids arrive at Palmetto Place with so few clothes and usually only one pair of shoes.

Keep in mind that our kids can come and go at a moment’s notice – so we have to be quick on our feet and we keep a list of “emergency” Santas who can help find Christmas gifts for kids who come into our care at the last minute. This happens every single year. This year, three kids arrived three days before Christmas. The magic of Christmas – and the power of volunteers – is that all three of those kids had a pile of gifts by Christmas Day.

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It’s so much fun for us to see our volunteer Santas bringing in the Christmas gifts that they have so thoughtfully purchased and wrapped specially for our kids. It’s incredibly emotional for all of us – knowing that some kids have never written a letter to Santa and some kids aren’t used to having presents to open on Christmas morning. And, yet, a huge list of volunteers who don’t necessarily know these kids mobilize each year to make Christmas happen. That’s just plain magic to me and I’m grateful for each and every one of you who helped.

Outside of gifts, 15 kids have to be occupied when they are out of school for holiday break! Again, here come volunteers. A group of teachers came on Christmas Eve to bake cookies with the kids. The South Carolina Honors College put on a Christmas concert. TD Bank made hot chocolate and read Christmas stories. Riverland Hills Baptist Church helped the kids make Christmas ornaments. Kathwood Baptist Church brought dinner on the first day of vacation. Aeropostale brought teddy bears for each kid. A family collected Christmas pajamas for each child and brought Christmas Dinner; another collected Christmas socks. Dr. Pierce Butler delivered breakfast the day after Christmas, and a former board member brought Chinese food one night. The list goes on …

On Christmas Eve, Jill (our counselor) and I made dinner for the kids – a treat for the kids AND for us. We made all “mini” food – mini pizzas, mini quiches, etc. One teen girl helped Jill make pizzas and another took charge of making punch and serving it to everyone. A very fun way to spend Christmas Eve.

But, of course, the best part is Christmas morning. We all agreed on 7 am as the earliest they could get up. 15 bright shining faces came out of six bedrooms at 7 am. It’s truly amazing to watch their faces – “Santa really did come!”,  “Santa really does know where I am – he found me and brought me presents!” They are so grateful and appreciative – and so surprised that Santa knew what they wanted.

Ornament_Riverland

I think my favorite moment on Christmas Day was the 15-year-old girl who asked for a giant Mickey Mouse doll. While she was very happy about the clothes and gift cards she received, the Mickey Mouse is what made her Christmas the best ever. I suspect that she had wanted that Mickey Mouse doll for a very long time and had never gotten it. Magic.

If you have any doubts about Santa or about the true meaning of Christmas, Palmetto Place will restore your faith. Watching the kids on Christmas Day makes me want to work harder, bring in more funding and introduce more people to our mission and our kids. Thanks for all you do for us to make Christmas a joyous day.