Cause #14 – Sacramento Area Emergency Housing Center December 14, 2009Posted by 20causes20days in Causes, Charities, Volunteer.
As the winter weather rolls in, it’s easy to turn the heater on in our home, curl up in front of the TV, and spend an evening with family.
What if you and your family had no TV, no heater, no home?
Unfortunately, many families are in this situation. The Sacramento Area Emergency Housing Center is a Family Shelter program that helps families transition from being homeless to being able to get back on their feet again.
It’s a program that was founded in 1972 to help focus on the needs of seven families, but has blossomed to serve 500 people per day across all 14 of its various programs.
As they serve hundreds of families, there are likewise a significant amount of children in the SAEHC program.
My task this evening was to help set up and supervise a Birthday Magic party at the Mather Community Center. Each month, the Birthday Magic program sets up & hosts a party to celebrate the kids’ birthdays that month. The party I was a part of tonight was for the kids ages 1-3.
There were ten kids celebrating birthdays this evening. I hung out in the corner at the toy slide, and this seemed to be the most popular spot for the youngest kids.
None of the kids could talk very well, but we communicated perfectly. I’d pick each one up and put them on top of the slide. They’d slide down and the process would repeat. This continued for twenty minutes.
It was clear from the amount of kids and the frequency with which they made the loop, that the slide was the main attraction. I found a lot of humor in the static electricity. The kids would be at the top of the slide with their hair sticking straight up.
It was a classic moment that reminded me of my youth. I have a picture of me in my crib, ca. 1978, with my hair sticking straight up off my head. I couldn’t help but laugh each time one of the kids had ‘crazy hair.’
The kids knew it too, and they milked it. It seemed like they’d deliberately shuffle their feet on the slide to get that static electricity firing, just to make me laugh.
Just as the fun on the slide was kicking into full gear, it was dinner time, with presents after.
The younger kids were placed in the half-circle baby table. The image of them eating their mini-slices of pizza is timeless, cute, adorable, unforgettable, and many other baby-riffic adjectives.
They had their pizza, and we cleared the plates off for the cake and candles for the true ‘birthday boy’ Nathaniel. He was the only one whose birthday was that exact day, and boy was he treated right!
He got a cupcake with a candle, which another of the volunteers blew out. We sang Happy Birthday to him, and he got to dig into his cupcake. The other kids were then served dessert, and as most kids do, they absolutely loved their sweet treat.
Once they had devoured their birthday cake, it was present time. While they each got a small gift, Nathaniel hit the mother lode this evening. Six huge presents, including brown shoes, two outfits, a toy radio, and a colorful toy scooter.
The kids were all about ‘helping’ Nathaniel open the presents. He was very excited about being spoiled on this evening, though his relatively calm demeanor may have suggested otherwise.
After presents, the party came to an end. The parents came to pick up their children, and each received a Beanie Baby as another gift for their birthday.
Not having any kids, this was definitely a fun but exhausting evening for me. What a constant bundle of energy they are!
But knowing the struggles their families had endured to get here, it made me happy to know that they were able to enjoy a fun birthday party with their friends that they might not have had without the help of SAEHC.
There was another party going on simultaneously, for the 11-14 kids. I didn’t get to make it to that party, though I heard there was karaoke. Since I am now a seasoned karaoke veteran after starting this project, I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to participate.
That said, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the young kids party. It was nice to see the gratitude on the parents’ faces as they picked up their happy, smiling kids. It felt good to know that our time on the slide together had undoubtedly made their day.
SAEHC is looking for volunteers to help with these types of events. If the events, which typically are sponsored, are not staffed by those sponsors, volunteers are welcome and encouraged. There are a myriad of volunteer opportunities across all their vast network of programs. Volunteer services and opportunities are coordinated through the Volunteer Center of Sacramento. Volunteer information is below.
It was a fun, exhausting evening that was just a small piece of the big picture SAEHC puts together to create an empowering, encouraging environment for the families who are in the process of getting their lives back together.
It was an hour spent with some great kids who may or may not remember this particular party, but I will certainly remember it and feel good that I helped these families enjoy their experience en route to getting back on their feet.
Sacramento Area Emergency Housing Center
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