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Children

Kevin's day off

Kevin's day off

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Monday marked the first day of school for our children… well, everyone except Kevin. Kevin was thrilled to have the whole big house and all of the houseparents’ attention to himself today. He said that he woke up later than everyone else – and it “ROCKED!”

Later, he took his two new favorite toys, Batman and Spiderman, and the three of them played a rousing game of pick-up basketball (it was a close game, but Kevin made a last-second three point shot to win against the plastic figurines).

After basketball, Kevin went on an adventure with the houseparents; getting him registered for school. As he walked up to the elementary school he was nervous; starting a new school year is never easy. After getting the paperwork filled out Kevin wanted to meet his new teacher. Although he can’t remember her name, he said, “She seems really nice. I’m excited about fourth grade even if I’m going to have to learn multiplication!” He was starting to feel better about starting school when he heard a familiar voice. Darting down the hall and around a corner he saw his favorite substitute teacher!

On their way home from running errands he asked if he could get his favorite lunch, McDonalds and chocolate milk! He ate lunch with some staff members, something he doesn’t normally get to do when all the kids are home. He expressed a little apprehension about having to take timed multiplication tests, but quickly talked himself out of it when he realized how smart he would be once he mastered multiplication.

Though he was excited to get back to school to see his friends, what was even more exciting was that this afternoon, he got to pick whatever channel he wanted on TV. Unrestricted by “all those girls” to choose a suitable movie, Kevin was able to kick back and watch Cars, and took up as much room on the couch as he wanted. As Cars came to its denouement, Kevin realized he had done everything he had wanted to do in his day off. Luckily, just then, the van with the other kids pulled into the driveway and they came barreling into the house, wide-ruled notebooks and #2 pencils flying.

Kevin loved the peace and quiet of the morning, but by the end of the day he was thankful for the usual hustle, bustle and chatter. He was thrilled to have the other kids back around – those he has come to consider his family – so he could hear their stories of new classrooms, new teachers and old friends on the playground. By the end of the school day, Kevin couldn’t wait to begin his own school journey tomorrow (even if he does have to learn multiplication). We wish for you and yours the same that we wish for all our children – a happy and healthy start to the school year! We can’t wait to see what this year brings!

My Favorite Firecracker

My Favorite Firecracker

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Kayleigh Medina was a volunteer at Palmetto Place in the spring of 2015. These are her reflections on her time with our kids:

Hands

 

For the past semester, I’ve been volunteering at a local children’s shelter. At first, I was only going with the intentions of getting my 15 community service hours for one of my classes. The first time I went, I was terrified. I love kids, but I found every reason to complain about taking time out of my week to hang out with kids that might not even like me. Boy, was I wrong. Here I am, in tears at the end of the semester because I won’t get to see any of them for 3 months, and I might not see some of them ever again.

The first time I went to Palmetto Place, I was scared, skeptical, and hesitant. I thought the kids were going to make fun of me, distrust me, and want nothing to do with me. I quickly realized that this was not true at all. Yes, they were sassy and defensive – but can you blame them? Many of them have already had to fend for themselves considerably during their relatively short lives.

Out of all of the children I have met here, one special three year-old girl has impacted me the most. She is an absolute firecracker. I met her the second time I volunteered here. She latched right on to me, and we became buddies. Later that day, she fell into a bad mood, and decided that she didn’t want to share with any of us. I held her still for a minute and asked, “Do you know why I am here?” She shook her head, “No.” I replied, “I am here to play with you and to be your friend. Do you want to be my friend?” She nodded her head with an excited “Yes!” I prompted her, “Well, friends share with each other, love each other, and are kind to each other – think you can handle that?” I watched her consider my request for approximately thirty seconds, and then I watched her completely refute my advice (three year-olds and logic don’t always mesh well). I left that day, knowing that I learned something big, and hoping that this little girl did too.

I returned the next week, and immediately felt someone tugging at my shirt (and, of course, my heart). I looked down and (who would have guessed it?) it was that same little girl. She excitedly declared “I’m not going to do what I did last time because I want to be your friend.” This was huge, coming from a three year-old. It took me only that moment to realize that I wasn’t here just to sign off on a few service hours and leave. I was there for children like her. I was there because I am passionate about these special children and this special place. I wasn’t assigned to Palmetto Place. I went there, and I continued to go, because I felt like I was able to make an impact on these children.

I now go to Palmetto Place every Thursday, and it is honestly the highlight of my week. I get excited just walking into that door and hanging out with these kids once a week. They break my heart and mend it back together all at the same time. Thinking about what these kids have already gone through in their lives tears me apart. Why should innocent children have to suffer from situations that aren’t in their control whatsoever? When I think about the home that these children and youth might be coming from, and the home that they might have to return to, I am so thankful for their temporary home at Palmetto Place. Without non-profit homes and shelters like Palmetto Place, these children could have ended up in mass orphanages, or in unsteady, and often unsafe, home environments.

My time serving at the shelter this past semester is something that I will never forget. These kids will remain in my heart and my prayers for a long time. The hope that I see in their eyes, despite everything they have been through, is beautiful to me. These children have every right to feel disparaged by, and distrustful of, the world, yet they placed their trust right in the palm of my hand. Here at Palmetto Place, I get to help kids realize their full potential in life, and teach them that they aren’t defined by their starting points in life, but by how far they come.

Spring Cleaning

Today’s blog post comes from Victoria Infinger, our communications intern. When I think about spring cleaning, I think about throwing my scarves, sweaters and boots into a large rubber tub and pulling out last year’s pastel dresses and bathing suits. I wouldn’t give a second thought as to where to put my winter clothes. Easy breezy.

But what about the children whose clothes are donated? What about the children who need help with spring cleaning and have no idea what to do with their winter clothes?

Let’s take a step back and imagine this scenario:

You have a closet full of clothes – a mixture of sweet summer wear and bulky winter apparel. You’re fourteen years old and your body is growing, so maybe you’ve outgrown about 60% of the clothes in your closet. Now that you’ve pushed through your winter sweaters and thrown aside the clothes that no longer fit, you feel distraught. What’s left in your closet for you to wear?

The other day, two of our volunteers organized one room of closets. The room belonged to a group of younger, growing girls who were absolutely delighted to clean out their closets.

“I started thinking about cleaning/switching out closets when I was helping my own two girls over Spring Break,” said Chris Cerra, one of our lovely volunteers. “If I was pulling my hair out working with two closets, how in the world would the house parents be able to manage 20 closets? It was a practical way that my friend, Ruffin and I could help Palmetto Place.”

Chris and Ruffin checked to see what all still fit the girls in the room, packed up all their winter clothes and moved in some summer clothes. It was such a little thing they did that most people do every year, yet it was so big for these girls.

“They [the girls] got so excited when we would pull something out that fit them,” Chris said. “It didn't matter that is was older and had belonged to someone else, they were just grateful it was ‘new’ to them.”

Putting the cherry on the cake of this sweet story, Chris decided to bring the girls back new outfits from Target including shorts and a few coordinating shirts.

“When I gave each of them their bag, they started screaming and jumping up and down. I was struck by how something so simple meant so much to them,” Chris said.

We all take such small things for granted. Spring time, a time for cleaning, organizing and shopping for new summer outfits, might seem ordinary to us, but extraordinary to those who don’t have the same opportunities as us.

This time of year, children at the shelter are left with questions like, “What do I do with these clothes that no longer fit?” “Where do I leave my winter clothes when it’s no longer winter?” We organize our own closets at home, so why wouldn’t we organize the closets of our shelter children?

Our volunteers are spectacular. We are so thankful to have volunteers willing to make such little things bigger than life for our kids.