By: Karen Tracey KAREN TRACEY Sustainability Dec 27, 2016 ‘TIS the Season of Giving: Volunteering with GRPS Homeless Program The holiday season is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas—bursting with cheer, family and happiness. For some, though, the season is full of a different kind of wonder: Where will I sleep tonight? Will I get a hot meal for dinner? How will I get to school tomorrow if I don’t know where I’ll sleep tonight? What if you didn’t have a place to call home? These things are hard to imagine from the cozy comforts of our homes decked with twinkling lights, crackling fireplaces and heaps of leftovers. But for many kids in our community, these things are luxuries they don’t know. Photo Source: GRPS Website GRPS Student Homeless Program TIS partnered with Local First and 616 Lofts this year to “adopt” 5 kids from the GRPS Student Homeless Program. Without this critical program, many children in our community would not be able to attend school. They make it possible for children who lack a fixed, regular, or adequate nighttime residence get to—and stay in—school. These children may live in a shelter, a temporary home, a motel, a car, a campground, or on the street. Gratefulness We worked with Tamara Dillon at GRPS to help these kids experience a little bit more of a happy Christmas. We had fun shopping and wrapping, and the kids got to open piles of presents… some things they needed, and others just for fun. Following are a few moments from the very humbling experience. Mom and Daughter: TIS “This is so wonderful. My daughter is going to be so excited to see all these presents!” — Mom was on the brink of giving up when she found the Program. When we dropped off her presents, she told us that she had recently gone back to work, moved into the apartment, and was starting to return to a normal life. Her joyfulness radiated, despite the fact there wasn’t a single piece of furniture in her tiny little apartment; but it was “home,” something she and her daughter hadn’t known for a while. Grandma and Grandkids: 616 Lofts When 616 dropped off their gifts, they were greeted by a giddy 11-year-old and her beaming grandmother. HUGE hugs were shared, and they heard over and over how grateful she was, after explaining that they hadn’t gotten around to getting a Christmas tree just yet. This grandmother had been doing everything in her power to keep the kids in school and needed a little boost from the GRPS program to get back on track. Teen Couch Surfer: Local First For a 17-year-old high school student who is considered a “homeless, unaccompanied youth” who couch surfs to avoid her toxic family, Christmas is anything but joyful. Despite the multitude of barriers, this lovely gal’s teachers adore her—she’s on many school committees and she's motivated to succeed. This year, thanks to this program, this young lady enjoyed a real Christmas filled with many of the things a teenager needs as well as some pampering treats. She has already applied to college for the fall and is on the road to a bright future. We all got so much more than helping a few kids in need from this experience. We will definitely be doing it again next year, and hope to include an opportunity for you to donate or volunteer with us, so we can bring a happy Christmas to even more kids in this program. Interested in getting involved with the GRPS Student Homeless Program? Click here to learn more.