Last year, as the holiday season approached, Hannah* didn’t know where to turn. The single mother of five recently had her hours cut at her job, and after taxes, was earning just $600 a month. Suddenly, she was having trouble paying her $500 monthly rent, let alone bills for power, clothing and food. With the holidays right around the corner, Hannah didn’t think she’d be able to buy her kids any gifts. “I cried every day,” she recalled. “I felt like I couldn’t do anything.”
After speaking with the office manager at her rental property about her difficulties, she was put in touch with a woman she now simply refers to as “her angel.” That woman was Diana Taylor, a case manager for United Way of Central Maryland’s Arundel County Family Stability program, which helps parents and children facing poverty obtain access to affordable housing, employment, healthy food, healthcare and education. Diana told Hannah that through the program, United Way would help pay her rent for three months. Diana also invited Hannah and her children to attend United Way’s annual Holiday Village.
Now in its fifth year, Holiday Village provides local children and families in need with the opportunity to celebrate the holidays. Last year, more than 40 families and nearly 100 children participated in the event, where they enjoyed a holiday dinner, made crafts and received gifts. In preparation for the event, Diana noted the clothing sizes of Hannah’s children and asked what was on each of their wish lists.
When Hannah and her kids arrived at the event, they were overwhelmed. “It was just so nice,” said Hannah. “They had all sorts of food — pizzas, salad, cookies and drinks. There were Christmas trees, and underneath each tree were tons of gifts marked ‘boy’ or ‘girl,’ and each of my children got to pick a present. We also received two bags full of clothes and gifts just for us, and three of my children got brand new bikes. It was just amazing!”
Because United Way assisted with her rent, Hannah was able to buy her children a few gifts herself. “That was something that really helped my self-esteem,” she said. “I was able to use a little money to buy a few Christmas gifts as well, so it wasn’t like everything was donated. That helped out tremendously.”
Today, Hannah continues to stay in touch with her “angel,” and she’s looking forward to attending her second Holiday Village. “It’s just meant so much,” she said. “Without it, I don’t think my kids would have had a Christmas last year at all. It’s been an amazing experience for all of us.”
To make the holidays brighter for local children and families in need this holiday season, please make a donation today.
*Name changed to protect client confidentiality