I love the holidays. I love Thanksgiving. I love Christmas. I am one of those people who could listen to Christmas music any time of the year, and I watch Hallmark Christmas movies starting in October. I have also experienced some challenges at Christmas, times when I did not know how I would buy Christmas gifts for my children. I would work a part time job to earn money, but then something would happen and the money would need to go for necessities. I cannot describe the joy I felt when I heard a knock on the door one late night several years ago. I opened the door and there stood a church member who handed me an envelope. He said this is for gifts for the family. His monetary gift came at just the right time and my children had gifts that year under the tree.

At Genesis, we frequently hear concerns expressed by mothers who worry about how they will make the holiday season special for their children. They may be staying in our emergency shelter, our transitional housing program or receiving services at our Outreach office. The women who do not have children seldom ask for anything for themselves. Many times when we are discussing the holiday wish list with our clients, the women can name gifts for their children, but when it comes to a gift for them, they may not be able to think of anything for themselves, or they say, “someone else needs this more than me.”

Gift cards mean more to these women than tangible gifts. Moms love to go shopping to find just the right gifts for their children. At the emergency shelter, a mom and her child taped green string on the wall in the outline of a Christmas tree and made paper ornaments to decorate the tree. It was a good feeling to know that mom would have some gifts to put at the foot of that Christmas tree – thanks to the generosity of our donors!

After the holidays, we receive thanks from our clients for the gifts, for the gift cards and just for being thought of at this time of year. Gift Cards are a gift that goes on giving throughout the year. The dollar amount on a gift card does not need to be large, and if we have extra gift cards after the holiday season, they are used throughout the year to help clients:

  • A gift card might pay for medication that a woman or child has gone without, sometimes for months, due to the abuse.
  • A gift card may buy a replacement ID or birth certificate, known as critical documents in our work. Critical documents are needed to apply for housing, benefits, employment and more.
  • We celebrate clients’ birthdays and a gift card brings smiles and sometimes tears of gratitude. For children’s birthdays, a gift card may be used to buy the gift that a child would like but would not ask for.
  • Gas cards are considered a miracle for women with vehicles.
  • Gift cards may buy a pair of work shoes for someone just starting a new job.
  • We give vouchers to the Genesis Thrift Store to our clients. There are a few important items that they will not find at the Thrift Store: new underwear, bras and socks. If we are unable to provide these items from our storage, then gift cards are needed to purchase these essential items.
  • Even with COVID restrictions, some children are attending school in person, which means they need uniforms, backpacks and school supplies. With gift cards, moms are able to shop for these items and know that their children will not go without.
  • Even in Texas, colder weather will come, which means babies, toddlers, children, teens and adults need winter coats, hats, gloves and scarves. If we do not have these items at the Thrift Store or in our storage room, gift cards help to keep our clients warm. A lot of prayers and thoughts of gratitude are said, especially when standing at the bus stop as the wind blows.
  • A client has studied and is ready to take the GED tests (5), but lacks the funds. A gift card could cover this cost, or pay the fee for certifications.

I could go on and on about the importance of gift cards, but I think you get the idea. Each and every gift card will do so much more than purchase an item. It will give a message that “you are important,” “you are valued,” and “you matter” to individuals who have been told just the opposite for far too long. You are a part of their healing when you give, and you cannot put a price on the value of knowing that your gift has made a difference. So thank you from all of us at Genesis. You make us proud that we do this work!

Written by Kristene Ruddle, client advocate at Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support.