Since our shelter is in a confidential location, it's rare that donors get to see it and experience what exactly their donations are helping to make happen. Every once in a while a supporter gets to visit our shelter (they sign a confidentiality agreement when they arrive), and nearly always our visitors are taken by surprise by what they find here.
I think many people picture emergency shelters as aging buildings full of bunk beds in dormitory style rooms, but here at Raphael House we are fortunate to be able to offer a space that is bright with color and art, with private family bedrooms and welcoming common areas. But what really surprises people is how much more we offer than shelter alone.
Families living at Raphael House have access to a wide spectrum of activities, from support groups to pet therapy to financial planning classes. We offer help with resume writing, homework help for kids, jewelry making, cooking/nutrition classes, and all kinds of cultural and holiday celebrations. The shelter is almost constantly buzzing with some kind of activity - and your generosity is what makes that possible.
Since most of you will never see the amazing transformations that your gifts support, I've attached a couple photos - one of a participant art exhibit, and one of last week's programming calendar. It only shows a tiny piece of the programs going on here every week!
From all of us at Raphael House and all the families who've lives you've impacted, thank you.
Every year as the holidays approach, I start thinking back over the past year. We see so many people come and go – nearly 100 families live at Raphael House each year – but it seems like there’s always one story that stands out. This year, that story is Gina’s.
Gina arrived at Raphael House seven months pregnant. She had a 3-year-old daughter, and she was fleeing an extremely dangerous relationship in another state. At first, her arrival brought tension to the shelter. Her daughter was high energy and needed more care than her pregnant mother could offer, causing conflict with some other moms. When Gina went into labor, exhausted and overwhelmed, she had no family or friends around her.
But before Gina gave birth, three of the other women living at Raphael House arrived at the hospital unannounced. They supported her through her delivery. They were in the room when the baby was born. And then they came back to Raphael House and threw a huge party to welcome the new baby.
I’ve never seen such a change in a person. Gina went from looking utterly alone and overwhelmed before the birth, to radiant and glowing with love afterwards. For days after, the shelter was full of hugs and laughter and celebration. Watching our community come together to support that new life was an experience I will never forget.
In just a few days, Gina and her two beautiful children will be stopping by our Holiday Program to pick out gifts for each other. This year they’ll celebrate the holidays in their very own apartment, hundreds of miles away from Gina’s abuser and safe from violence.
Gina’s story has the kind of happy ending that makes me truly believe. I believe that every family deserves a happy ending. I believe that by working together, we can end violence for good. Thank you for all your past support of our life-changing programs. This year, as you celebrate the season with family and friends, please consider demonstrating your belief by making a gift to Raphael House. No gift is too small to make a difference to the families we serve. Your support is vitally important to people like Gina.
From the apples ripening in our shelter garden to the art decorating our Advocacy Center walls, at Raphael House we're always working hard to nurture creative expression, and we celebrate opportunities to grow right along with our program participants. The two pieces of art you see here are the fruits of a collaboration between survivors of domestic violence, local artists, and our dedicated Advocacy Center Coordinator Kara. Together they debuted an art exhibit titled "A Beautiful Truth," which is currently on display in the Raphael House Advocacy Center. We're so happy to be able to offer the families we serve opportunities to express themselves and participate in new activities, and we can't wait to see what they come up with next!
Thank you for the part you play in supporting this transformative work. Without financial support from thousands of individuals like you, our programs would simply not exist.
With your help, we're proving safe, confidential shelter to families experiencing domestic violence. Providing emergency shelter is the foundation of our work, but we definitely don't stop there. We offer a full range of programs to the families who live at Raphael House, including self-sufficiency programming like help with financial planning and resume writing, and healthy programming like yoga and gardening. One of our program participants wrote this account of her experiences recently, and we thought you might like to read it:
We can't thank you enough for supporting women like Angie as they work to build safe, violence-free lives. They're growing every day, and - with your help - so is Raphael House.
Winter is always one of the most inspiring times of year at Raphael House. In December we hold our annual Holiday Gift Drive, where local individuals and businesses drop off thousands of toys, clothing and gifts, volunteer groups sort them into categories like "Gifts for Mom," "Blankets" and "Winter Clothing" and then all the families we've served in the last year are invited to come and pick out gifts.
The shelter gets decked out in all kinds of holiday gear and our staff entertains the kids while moms pick out and wrap gifts. Every year the generosity of the donations is stunning - this year one local store donated more than 1,000 sets of new kids pajamas! We had hundreds and hundreds of brand new toys and books. And residents at local retirement homes donated dozens of handknit scarves and hats for moms and kids.
It's the generosity of donors like you who make this kind of inspiring program possible. You keep our doors open and our shelter staffed. You give us the time and energy to recruit enough donations to make sure that every family has a warm and happy holiday season. You make it all possible. We really can't thank you enough.
Warm wishes for a happy and safe 2012 from all of us at Raphael House of Portland.
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