12 Days of Christmas Giveaways {day twelve} - the Gift of Giving

It's the last day of our 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways...and I have a little anxiety about this post. Lemme just put that out there.

A few years ago Don and I and our friend Rocco were fortunate enough to be part of something that was a genuine, bonafide Christmas miracle. Life changing in fact. Rocco was SO touched by it that he posted his thoughts on Facebook, and I shared it because he had perfectly captured what we were all feeling. Someone saw it and shared it as an example of "people who don't do anything all year who like to brag about how they help poor people at Christmas". It was...ummm...terrible. Curled up on our couch on Christmas Eve bawling my eyes out terrible. So we went quiet.

But here's the thing. When we moved to Kentucky this summer I met a group of women from the Okalona Woman's Club who adopt a local homeless Veterans' shelter every Christmas...and I knew we wanted to get involved. And we asked YOU to join us. We asked our friends for money. We asked my crafty peeps for cards. We rounded up folks to shop and fill boxes and donate clothing. And you did it all and more. SO MUCH MORE. So today I'm posting this (even though I'm skeered of mean people) because we want to be good stewards of your gifts and your time and your money. We want you to know what you did. How much joy you brought. We want to say THANK YOU. So here goes.

The club puts on a wonderful Christmas celebration (home cooked food, Christmas carols, gifts, etc) and every year each man who attends receives a new pair of gloves, socks and a hat (which you guys donated SO many of). This year - thanks to YOU - they also received a festive gift box filled to the brim with practical items (deodorant, a toothbrush, toothpaste, chapstick, handwarmers, etc), snacks (beef jerky, breakfast bar, peanuts, etc), and some Christmas goodies (candy cane, chocolates). Don and I were so fortunate to be able to hand out the boxes at the end of the night - and I'll just say this. If Don Kingston was smiling ear to ear...you know it had to be good. :)  It was ALL the feels.

We also wanted to do something for the shelter - something that would have a longer lasting impact. They said their biggest need was zippered mattress covers (they have to replace them each time someone leaves before a new man can come in - which makes so much sense but had never occurred to us). You guys were so generous that we were able to gift them with 25 MATTRESS COVERS. That is 25 men who won't have to wait for a bed an extra few days. 25 times the shelter won't have to dip in to their limited funds. YOU did that. What an incredible gift.

And the cards! OH THE CARDS! From gorgeous handmade works of art from crafters to folded construction paper lovingly drawn on by children. Store bought cards with personal and touching words of thanks inside. Cards signed by entire neighborhoods. Entire classrooms. Our goal had been for each veteran to get one card. Instead? They got a handful. A HANDFUL of wishes for a Merry Christmas and prayers for their success and thanks for their service. A handful of reminders that people all over the country are remembering them this holiday season. It was an absolute joy to behold.

In fact, if I could only use one word to describe the night -  it would be JOYFUL. I admit I had been worried. I was afraid it might be sad. I couldn't have been more wrong. There was laughter and great conversation and good-hearted inter-service joking. There was loud and joyful Christmas carol singing. There was the vet who asked the musical entertainment if he could play and KILLED it on the guitar and received a standing ovation from the entire room. There was this incredible sense of brotherhood and pride - these men, who vary in age and experiences and health issues, look out for one another and love each other and lift one another up in their journey to recovery. Most of all though, there was hope. These men are not broken or defeated or poor souls to be pitied. These are men who have lived through their darkest days and come out the other side stronger and more resilient and ready to take on the world. The whole night was filled with stories about how they are finding their way - looking for jobs or places to live or reconnecting with family - all while having each other and the shelter as a place of safety and comfort. It was just such an amazing night - and YOU made it happen. You brought a little extra joy in to the world this Christmas.

So our twelfth (and last) day of the 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways is all about the gift of Giving. Once again Don and I have been made better people thanks to YOU - and we aren't quite ready for this feeling to end.  So please leave a comment here with the link to an organization or group or story that YOU feel passionate about - and Don and I are going to gift TWO of them with $100 donations. These will be totally selected at random - if I clicked on all the links I would probably be curled up on the couch crying again - and I will announce who has been selected tomorrow on my Facebook Page.

Thank you, thank you, thank you...for your friendship and your kindness and your generosity and your trust. Thank you for letting us bring to life this community that we are so blessed to be a part of. We know how incredibly fortunate we are to be a small part of your lives and we will never take that for granted. We wish you as much joy as you have brought to us this holiday season. Merry Merry Merry Christmas. <3

--Beth and Don Kingston