November

I live according to the academic year. I think in terms of semesters and summers, homecomings and spring breaks. Maybe this is because I grew up in a college town. Maybe it’s because I secretly hope to be a perpetual student. Maybe it’s because I’ve managed to keep one foot in Neverneverland and avoided–up till now–the kind of job that would force me to think in calendar or fiscal years.

All that is to say, November is the month where you get one brief weekend to take a deep breath of relaxation before plunging deep into chaotic Holidays. November is not a month of transition.

But it was in November that I started my internship at Palmetto Place. It was a difficult time to make any sort of change. It felt awkward and clumsy and I couldn’t imagine I would get anything accomplished before winter break.
Now, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
In the last month, I have been helping to sort Christmas presents for the kids in our shelter; to organize volunteers to supervise fun activities for the kids while they’re out of school; to gather craft supplies and bingo prizes; and making two of these:
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Snowman pinatas. They’re sort of goofy and misshapen and I’m honestly nervous they will collapse under their own weight as soon as they’re strung from the basketball hoop. But as I have spent each day here at Palmetto Place overwhelmed by the generosity of our community members, I have gotten swept up in the holiday spirit like never before in my life. It has been so exciting to transition at the time of year when people are eager to share the gifts they have to offer.
As a graduate student, I don’t have a lot of free time or excess cash. What I do have is a nerdy glee over silly homemade projects. I’m grateful to be able to make these lumpy pinatas, while one of our 5-year-olds stirs my paper mache paste and tells me rambling stories about her day. I’m even more grateful to be here in the last month, to be reminded–by those who have shared their excess resources of time, energy, money, or Christmas gifts–of the kindness still present in this sometimes bleak world.

Behind the Magical Door

Hi, friends! Today’s post comes from Jill, our counselor…

During an afternoon therapy group with all of the residents, I was pleasantly surprised at how great our kids are at critical thinking. The activity started with each kid having a sheet of sketch paper, crayons, and good listening ears. I read them a paragraph that goes something like… “Imagine you are in a gigantic, magical castle. You find yourself holding a key and staring at dozens of locked rooms. Your key will only open one room and you need to find the matching key hole. After trying lots of doors, you finally unlock a door… Behind this door is a room that contains something that you’ve always wanted in life. It can’t be anything that costs a lot of money like a game console or an iPod. It has to be something that you’ve always needed but have never been able to have.” After each child finished drawing their picture of what their magical room looked like, they were anxious to share. One 5th grader drew a picture of his dad who passed away when he was an infant. An 11th grader drew people coming to his football game because he said he’s never had family to come watch him play football, but knew that would change this year because the staff at Palmetto Place would come. An 8th grader drew what peace would look like because everyone in her family is always yelling and unhappy. At that moment I realized that support, peace, and relationships were a basic need just as food, shelter, and clothing to these kids. Next time you’re in the car driving and have some down time, think about what would be behind your magical door…

Awards Day

Hi, this is Erin. Welcome to our new adventure at Palmetto Place – our blog! We really enjoy sharing snippets about our kids on Facebook, Twitter and through our enewsletter. But we think it’s time for more!

We hope you’ll learn a little more about what we do and about what our kids go through and how we are trying to improve their lives. This is a great opportunity for us to answer your questions too. So think about what you want to know and ask away!

One of the things that strikes me so deeply with our kids is their desire for parental involvement. Last week, a fourth grader asked if I’d come to his school’s awards day. Of course I would! This kiddo was having a particularly rough week missing his family and was really wanting to be home.

I jumped at the chance to be there for him.

I was sitting in the third row of parents and was worried he wouldn’t see me. Sure enough, as his class filed into the auditorium, I saw his worried face trying to find me. I almost jumped out of my seat waving but held back and did a more reserved wave.

A huge smile broke out on his face and I could see him stand just a little taller. His eyes didn’t leave mine until he was seated. I could tell he was relieved that someone was there to cheer for him.

Moments like that make the hard days all worth it. I relish the days when I get to see a kid smile like that.

As names were called and certificates handed out, moms in the audience stood up to take their child’s pictures. You bet I did the same thing! This was one of those times when our kids just want to be normal. We work really hard to make “normal” a reality for them.

This fourth grader probably hadn’t had a parent at an awards ceremony – or any school function – in years.

The small amount of time I took out of my day to show up for this kid made a huge impact. This is what we do for 16 kids every day at Palmetto Place.