Stockings hung by the chimney with care and carefully-wrapped gifts laying under the tree may be common Christmas sights for some, but there remain plenty families in need around the holidays as well — like those served by Safehope in Newton.
While Safehope helps provide shelter for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, the list of services offered extends far beyond just that and includes case management, outreach, medical needs, financial budgeting, transportation and more. Included among that more is the organization's Angel Tree Project, which seeks to provides gifts of coats, blankets and other needs and wants of families served by Safehope around the holidays in order to deliver a very merry Christmas experience — considering what the victims may have given up to seek help from Safehope.
"People will do extraordinary things to take care of their children. So, for us — and I want to say us as a community — to be able to take some of that burden off of someone I think is a really big deal," said Heather Boswell, Safehope project coordinator.
The project has been going on as long as Boswell as been with the organization (11 years) and then some, and traditionally community patrons have been able to adopt families to help out off an Angel Tree displayed at Wal-Mart. While that tree will not be up this year, Boswell noted there are other trees displayed around the community, including at Whitestone Mennonite Church in Hesston, First Christian Church of Sedgwick and Hendrickson Chiropractic in Newton. Interested individuals can also contact Safehope to adopt a family.
Other trees will meet more specific needs, like the gift card trees up at the two Dillons locations in Newton. Community members will be able to purchase gift cards for gas, food and other basic needs to help the victims served by Safehope. Additionally, Mojo's on the Bethel College campus has a tip drive going on to raise funds to purchase gifts for Safehope's Angel Tree Project. Boswell noted all donations to the project are being sought out before the deadline on Dec. 11 (with gifts to be delivered the following week).
Last year, at least 60 families were provided gifts through the Angel Tree Project and Boswell noted there are still 24 families up for adoption this year. The generosity of the community helps keep the project going and she has seen first-hand just what that means to the families served by Safehope.
"I think this is an opportunity for victims to see really how much their community cares about them and the fact that some stranger would pick an angel off of a tree or would call us and adopt a family is a pretty big deal," Boswell said. "As a staff and as a community, we see the impact — how grateful they are, how amazed they are that somebody cared enough to take care of someone else's children this Christmas."
Victims seeking assistance from Safehope may leave many of their belongings behind, so the Angel Tree Project helps them in providing for themselves and their children during the holidays.
Boswell noted in some cases the simple act of giving can be eye-opening to the victims and their families. She recalled an instance several years ago when a young girl asked if she would be able to keep the gifts provided through the Angel Tree Project, or if her dad would be taking them back the next day like previous years — highlighting just how significant the project can be in providing for those Safehope serves.
"You don't recognize how blessed you truly are until you hand somebody a gift and they're just in tears, thankful," Boswell said. "That was a very small thing that somebody did, but it means a lot."
Persons interested in adopting a family for the Angel Tree Project can call 316-803-1800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.