This year, we made swag bags for 15 women living at the Women's Crisis Center shelter. The WCC advocates for women who are survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse. These are the mothers who are doing the hardest things: the mom who took the kids and left; the mom who sleeps in a room full of strangers so the baby she's carrying can be born without fear; the mom who files a restraining order against the father of her children - and whose children often don't understand why - because she's had enough and she is listening to that still, small voice inside of her that says, "You deserve better. Your kids deserve better. You should all be safe." This is what Mother's Day is for. It's not about gifts. It's about being moms.
The swag bag stuffing party was surprisingly easy this year, even though we had a record number of mama bags and kid bags to fill. Why was it easy? Because of the generous donations of so many sweet friends and family....and because of the help of some special volunteers: Laura Lanthorn, my own Mama, and my sweet girls! This was Sylvia's fourth swag bag party! It took no prep to get her ready to fill bags. The girls spent the afternoon with my mom and when they got home, the first thing they said was, "I WANT TO HELP!" There was no whining. There was no, "Can I keep this?" There was only talk of GIVING, talk about how much the kids will LOVE the stuffed animals and the books...how much the moms will LOVE this lipstick or this chocolate......my girls totally get it and that is the greatest Mother's Day gift I could ever ask for.
Here's what the party looked like before we got started. Mind you...all of this was piled all over our house for two weeks, so Sylvain was happy to see it go! Also...I did not buy one single thing on this couch. Not a thing! That's how awesome my friends and family are. I know some really GREAT people.
Stuffing bags...trying not to mix it all up!
Goodie bags for the kids. The girls donated a couple of their own Star Wars bags. I wrote the age and gender of each kid on the tag for the bag and Sylvia worked really hard to make sure all of the items in the bags were appropriate. I became super confused about the whole thing, but she had it all figured out!
The cards for each Mother's Day gift included a $20 gift card to Super Cuts! My stepmom had that great idea, so I hope the mamas love it.
Loading up the car! Sylvain took one look at how I was trying to make it happen and he promptly emptied the van, collapsed a bunch of seats and started over. I'm glad he did, because it barely fit with all the donations!
Here's a little peek at the swag bags: shampoo and conditioner, tampons (glamorous, I know, but SO useful, right?), two kinds of lotion (practical and smell-goody), hand sanitizer, deodorant, hair accessories, hand soap, a pen and notepad, make up, razors, chapstick and fancy chocolate!
...all in a fancy tote bag, with a sweet begonia flower on the side! Just a little note about the flowers: we STILL had $75 in cash donations last night and I wanted to get each mom a little potted flower to go with their gift. A shelter employee once told me that the women like to have a little flower or plant that they can take with them to their new place when they leave, so I asked Sylvain to take the $75 and see what he could do with it today. No surprise...the man totally delivered! He took the kids to a local garden shop and got 14 begonias in pots for $74!!!! God is good all the time, people. All the time.
I didn't take many pictures of the kids' bags, but they are full of snacks, coloring books, picture books, stuffed animals, bubbles, play doh, notebooks, and glow sticks. I hope the kids love them. But more importantly, I hope they know that their moms love them, and that we love them, too.
As if these swag bags weren't enough, we found out at the eleventh hour that one of the moms in shelter is expecting a baby ANY MINUTE NOW and she has nothing. I asked her to make a list. I posted the list with a plea for any help anyone could give, and I didn't expect much because everyone I know had already given so much.
You guys.....EVERY ITEM on this mama's list is taken care of. It's done. She has everything she needs PLUS extra cash to go pick out her own stroller. My friends are amazing...because God is so good!
So tonight my van is full of LOVE from countless family and friends...an honor I do not take lightly. I'll deliver these small tokens of love to the shelter tomorrow, and then I'll enjoy Mother's Day with my family and my own mother and grandmother - not because I have to, but because I want to and I can't wait. Mother's Day has officially been RECLAIMED! Take that, jewelry commercial. I win!
P.S. I've been working really hard lately to discern between my will and God's will for me. I firmly believe that God's will includes coordinating my friends and family who are giving so generously to these shelter mamas. I am nothing but a pair of hands...attached to a really pushy and wordy girl who isn't afraid to ask for help!