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I just received a touching letter from the Executive Director at The National Center for Children and Families, Sheryl Brissett Chapman.  It appears that I have been nominated as their 2009 Maryland Volunteer of the Year.  Needless to say I am very touched and appreciate the honor of this award.

I wanted to share with you a few excerpts from her letter…

…you have given the families in the Family Stabilization Program a fresh start…

Your patience and kind-heartedness have brought several families to tears of joy.  Through your artistic and personal efforts, you have created a sense of optimism in the lives of each family.

You don’t just decorate each home; you scrub, clean, paint, hang pictures and move furniture.  You take the time to learn the personal tastes and character of each client, incorporating their likes into your designs…

I have had a lot of help, and want to thank all of you who have donated to this wonderful project, now named, “Project Home”.  Special thanks to Amy Hartman, volunteer extraordinaire, my expert shopping buddy and goods gatherer not to mention the painter of personal name signs for our kids rooms, (among her may talents).  Also Karen Murley, a fellow redesigner, who has sewn curtains, pillows and chair covers on site.  Karen has a gift of gathering “stuff” and has put together an impressive inventory for our future projects.  Both of these talented women have taken this project to heart and helped me immensely.  Their continued enthusiasm for this project keeps me going.  Many thanks also go to Deb Werner, Tricia Weidenmayer, Jill Kaufman, Denise Standen , Susan Perman, Ally Connelly, Tom Connelly and Richard Zdanis who have helped me haul, paint, scrub toilets, organize closets, whatever! I thank you all for your willingness to do anything needed and for allowing me to do whatever I wanted!

While reading the Mission statement of NCCF, I realized that what we are doing with “Project Home” is completely in line with their statement:

To create total, healthy living environments for vulnerable children, youth, and families, and the quality of life which empowers their ability to thrive and demonstrate responsibility.

We hope to  continue to support these families in the coming years and are now able to accept cash donations in the name of this project to help us with the costs involved in setting up these homes. Donations would be made to National Center for Children and Families, earmarked for “Project Home”.

Thanks again for your support and well wishes for “Project Home”.

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It was a challenging holiday season to be sure.  My husband fell on the ice two days before Christmas and broke three ribs.  I’ve never heard a man scream so loud in my life!  We learned after a few excruciating days of trying to get him in and out of our bed that what we needed was a hospital bed. Thank goodness our bedroom is large enough to accommodate the ugly,  noisy,  monster!  Lovely isn’t it?

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Anyway, 3.5 weeks later and he is back in our bed, thank goodness, and it’s time for that thing to go!

So while taking care of my husband, keeping our business going, dealing with Christmas,  saying goodbye to my older children as they flew home to California, my college age daughter needed me to drive a van full of furniture to North Carolina.  She was moving into her first house (off campus) with two girlfriends and they were starting with next to nothing.  I left my poor husband with a strap to pull himself out of bed and told all the neighbors to look in on him!  I had a house to decorate, for goodness sake!

The added challenge in the move was that my daughter and her roommates were of little to NO help.  As juniors in a sorority, they were busy with RUSH  responsibilities for about 18 hours a day.  They had been there for 3 days and still had NO refrigerator (apparently rental houses don’t have to provide a fridge in North Carolina!) hence NO food, which probably didn’t matter since they had no time to eat anyway.  So first things first. I blew up an air mattress to sleep on (she had no bed yet) and unpacked the van.  Her housemates had brought couches from home, rugs, lamps and lots of kitchen stuff so some of the basics were there.  They were certainly starting  off a lot better than the families I help with Greentree!  After a freezing night on that air mattress, (I didn’t know that the room air temperature became the temperature of the mattress and it felt like I slept on an ice cube all night), the next day I bought her a mattress and frame.   Turns out that buying an inexpensive mattress that she will use for 1.5 years is still expensive!  But after hearing stories of bed bugs from used mattresses, Craigs list was not considered.  I had that sucker delivered the same day–no more air mattress for me!

I spent the next two days going to Homegoods (accessories to the tune of $150), World Market (curtains for the living room-on sale, $80), Best Buy (for the fridge–$600–our share-$100), Steinmart (bedding and pillows $100), Target (curtains for bedroom/shower curtain and other misc household items ($200), The Goodwill Superstore (Desk and bookends ($40), furniture consignment shops (brand new dresser $250),Bed, Bath & Beyond (more bedding-another $100), Home Dept (adapter for the TV $2), and drove with my daughter (0n an unauthorized break from RUSH) to another town about 20 minutes away to buy a table and chairs from a family off of Craigs list ($140).  Don’t even try to add it up…it’s too depressing!

In between all the shopping, I had the bed delivered, set it up, ironed curtains and hung pictures, rolled out rugs and threw away boxes.  I drew the line at putting her clothes in the dresser…that was up to her!

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Once the refrigerator was delivered–of course we were the last delivery of the day–I ran to the local Whole Foods and stocked them up with all the healthy basics that they could eat and then I bolted out as fast as I could, to spend some needed R & R with my good friends that live about an hour away in Durham.

This is what I know for sure, it takes A LOT of money to set up a household!  There is NO way that our families at NCCF could afford to do it.  That is why what we are doing is so IMPORTANT.  Just the basics cost a fortune.  When I preview the  apartments of these small families to see what they need I am astonished at how little they are living with.  Usually no dishes, one or two towels, sometimes no where to sit or a pillow for their head.  The saddest part for me is that they don’t have family to help them.  Where is their mother to fill up their cabinets with leftover dishes from her own kitchen?  I always wonder about that.

Our children are very fortunate… my friends and I say that over and over.  I feel blessed to be able to help someone else’s children live in a more comfortable environment.  Thank you for helping  me help other people’s children by donating to “Project Home” !

Check out these inspiring words about serving from Martin Luther King on his birthday…

http://bit.ly/74nGWt

I invite you to comment…