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Too late for Christmas; but not too late

GailAnn | Posted in Talk With Us on

Just suppose you or someone in your circle knew of a struggling family.   Mother in a very large size, two daughters 16 and 12, two sons 14 and 1 year old. appropriate sizes for their ages.  The mother works full-time in an office setting.  The father is in and out of the picture.   Mostly out.  They live in a 2 bedroom apartment.  Children walk to school.  Oldest daughter is responsible for taking youngest son to daycare.  One car in operating condition.  Mother works all the overtime she can get.

Just suppose your circle decided to help this family on an ongoing basis, not just a one-time thing.

Just suppose your circle was willing to make a 2 year committment to this family.  Thus the oldest daughter would be able to graduate from High-school and go to work to help the others.  Perhaps even a 6 year commitment and get all 3 of the oldest children graduated, and the youngest in school all day………………. 

Just suppose everyone in your circle had a sewing machine and could sew at some level from beginner to advanced.

Just suppose you had a certain amount of resources available for this project.  Say, 6 ladies in the circle, each of whom could provide $10 and 3 hours a week.

What would be the Highest and Best use of these resources?

What could be sewn, what should be purchased?

It’s been so long since I’ve clothed a teen-ager, that I don’t even have any idea what they might be wearing these days!  Obviously they will want to be able to ‘fit-in’.

Logically $240 (6 circle members X $10. X 4 weeks = $240.) a month would go a long way in easing up any family’s budget.   The suggestion has been made that we do just that.  Send it annonomously in an envelope every month.

Other suggestions have been made, but I’d really like to hear any suggestions you may have to offer.

FYI –  The ladies in the circle in question has been meeting over 14 years, for various projects, support, Bible study, and other reasons, which change from time to time, and need to need.  Committment is not a problem!  Many of the ladies have known the Mother in this family for about 3 years.  She works with one of the circle members. 

This circle knows it can’t change the world, but maybe it can improve one little corner of the world.  Maybe it can ease some pain, allow the children to make a few better choices, and take one or two steps higher on the ladder of life, than their parents did.



Edited 12/17/2007 2:49 pm ET by GailAnn


  1. Crazy K | | #1

    Wow!  What a wonderful thing to do!  I have teenaged grandchildren and in my opinion the way kids dress today makes it very difficult to sew things for them.  Flannel pants are always a hit around these parts and t-shirts maybe.  I have noted that pjs in any size are very expensive for what they are........that might be one place sewing would work.  Sewing for the little one would be fun.......and probably most welcome.  Maybe some of the money going to the family would pay some of their montly expenses and free up a few dollars for clothing for those teens.  Just a thought.  I'm sure others will have ideas.

    Merry Christmas and God Bless............you are angels with skin on..........


    1. GailAnn | | #2

      No, not hardly angels.

      Many of us could find an extra $10. in our weekly budget, the 3 hours would be harder for any of us.

      There are so many wonderful worthy places for that $10.:  I'm sure any one of you could name 10 excellent causes without much thought.

      This is just one little place, where one little circle of women, think they may be able to, lift one individual familily, do one individual good and live to see the results.

      It's probably more of an immediate gratification thing than an angel thing.  Gail

      1. Crazy K | | #3

        I hear you!  I do sewing for charity as time allows (which is not nearly as much as I would like!) and we deliver handmade quilts and gathered clothing to the local chapter of the Sal. Army in downtown on a regular basis.  I don't do the quilting but my neighbor is in a group that does the sewing.....my DH and I deliver the loads.....at least one a month.  Yes, many of us could spare a few dollars...the time is harder.

        Instant gratification maybe but still I'm sure the recipients will feel that it's 'heaven-sent'!!  Funny how the sender receives as much or more than the recipient, isn't it?  Guess that's where "It is more blessed to give than to receive" comes from.  I try to live my life that way...........sounds like you do as well.  Good luck with your venture.


        1. pinkit | | #4

          Gail:  Your situation makes me think how difficult it is to deal with things for the teen-age crowd.  Would it make sense to do gifts for the younger children but perhaps get a gift certificate to a Mall or somewhere reasonable for the teenage girls who is trying to help her MOM.  I know out teenagers like Mall certificates so they can do their own shopping.  Shopping is especially good after the Christmas holiday and the girls go with one another to shop.  Malls have a variety of stores from less expensive to the ultimate.   Around our City our Senior Citizens spend a full year preparing for the next  Christmas which is mostly Doll preparation and one man makes small wood toys and furniture.  Perhaps your group could make a head start on the next year after you get through this Christmas.  May God Bless your efforts.  I know I try to participate in a good many of the requests we have here.

          1. Crazy K | | #5

            Pinkit sent you a message but it came through to me........thought you would like a notice.


  2. MaryinColorado | | #6

    God bless you and your wonderful circle of friends!  My daughter and her three children are in the same situation so my heart goes out to those like her.  You will really make a difference in these childrens lives.  Often they get so discouraged and angry about not having nice things.

    Throw sized quilts are nice for extra warmth on thier beds.  Pillow cases and handtowels.  Tshirts, hoodies, hats, scarves, mittens,jeans, anything with a school emblem or school colors is often appreciated too.  If they are in band or choir or extra curricular activities, a donation to the sponser for thier uniforms or instruments, etc. helps alot.  (They grow out of black pants and skirts with white tops so quickly and it is often a difficult expense for families to provide for dressier activities.  The schools often require them three times a year for concerts and such.)  There are never enough socks and underwear it seems....tennis shoes are great too.  Some girls will wear skirts, others aren't comfortable with them. 

    One year the cubscout leader provided all the kids back packs and school supplies from the lists that schools give out.  wow!  That was such a blessing.  My husband and I even cried at that one as we usually provide for most of the kids needs.  Now that we are retired it is difficult. 

    Also, you may have work that the children can do or help with to earn some money to spend as they wish if thier mother approves and would be able to supervise what they spend it on.  Lawn mowing, babysitting, yardwork, painting, cleaning, taking out the trash, spring cleaning, decorating, shovelling, washing the car, carrying in groceries, etc.  This is good for thier self esteem too.

    As mother works so much, sending them an easy or quick to fix meal ingredients, or prepared casserole would be much appreciated too.  One year we ordered and paid for all the milk, eggs, and cheese to be delivered from a dairy.  Grocery gift certificates  might be a better idea than actual cash if it's to be a regular contribution.  The problem with cash is it may get absorbed into her budget and then if and when it is n't there anymore, may cause a hardship.   But it could be used for needed medical care or prescription or over the counter medicines too.  The teens love gift certificates from Target.  Some teenage girls loves clothes styles like the Limited Too outlet store has so if there is one near you, it's great for seeing what current styles are.  (they have a website too).

    sorry to ramble on, my mind is racing with what a wonderful gift you are giving them!  Again, God bless you!!!

    Merry Christmas!  Mary

    Edited 12/20/2007 2:06 am by MaryinColorado

    1. GailAnn | | #8

      These are all wonderful, really excellent suggestions, I'll pass along to the circle.

      I was haveing a lot of misgivings about how much good we could actually do by sewing for the family.  It's not 1940 anymore and kids, even Moms, prefer storebought today.


      1. MaryinColorado | | #11

        My grand daughter was thrilled today to receive a fleece hat and scarf, made by a friend.  It is hot pink (fuschia) and lime green.  Mary

  3. meg | | #7

    Your group's thoughtfulness is awesome and admirable. The teenagers will probably like the flannel pj's. Is it possible to find out what their school allows for dress code? Hooded sweatshirts are very popular in our school. What about teaching the children to sew? Prom dresses? Sunday clothes? A gift certificate to the local grocery store, electric company, gas station?

    1. GailAnn | | #9

      Yes, Miss Meg, I had thought about teaching the girls to sew, but again, it's not 1940 anymore, one wonders if they might not appreciate it.

      Or maybe it's like piano lessons......You only appreciate it 25 years after the fact.


  4. soandsew | | #10

    I have been at that end of the bottom of the box.  About 29 years ago, hubby and I both found ourselves without jobs and for the first time in our lives had to apply to the state for help.  Several people in our community got together with our church and provided one of the best Christmas ever.  I still tear up thinking of the gifts they gave us and the monetary gift to get us through a tough time.  Over the years we have secretly help others in need, our way of giving back to the community and keeping the true meaning of Christmas alive.

    1. scrubble4 | | #17

      Dear Soandsew:  I love your "pay it forward".  In some ways, those of us who have had the good fortune to need the help of others at some moment in our lives, really get what it feels like to feel isolated from mainstream because you can't afford anything.  My husband and I always feel fortunate now when we can quietly help someone.  Each person always asks the question, "How can I repay you?"  And we always say "By helping the next person who crosses your path in need when you can afford to help them.  That is the only way we have been able to repay the folks who helped us."  I love the releasing from personal obligation and indebtedness, to community connectedness.  It is so respectful.  Thanks for bringing your story forward.  Scrubble4

      1. GailAnn | | #18

        Have you --  or anyone one you know --  had the lifelong good fortune to have never needed help from another person?

        Nobody gets an easy life.

        We all need help, at one time or another.  Gail

        1. scrubble4 | | #19

          GailAnn:  We have had the good fortune to need help.  We call it good fortune as it keeps us appreciative of all the goodness we enjoy daily.  Pay it forward is our motto. 

          I wish you joy, peace and continued sewing skill in the New Year. 

  5. jjgg | | #12

    The 16 yo girl will probably need a prom dress soon, she could select the pattern and help pick out fabric (within reasonable cost). If she has any interest in sewing, teach her to sew with the 3 hrs a week - "you can give a girl a fish(dress), or you can teach her how to fish...(sew a dress)"

  6. jane4878 | | #13

    Something else that may help is teaching the girls and mom how to chose food and cook simple, wholesome meals.  In Alberta some of the communities have Community Kitchens that run a month long weekly program were each member brings $1 per person in their family and they're brought to a supermarket and shown how to shop using the Canada Food Guide (I believe the US has a similar guide) and to avoid expensive processed and junk food and then each week they get together to make meals (casseroles, soups, stews etc) and they take home portions for each family member with the recipes.  Learning how to cook from "scratch" goes a long way in reducing food costs and increasing the nutrional value of the meals.  Menu planning and not impulse buying (only shopping with a list) is part of this.  That's a formal program run by various social agencies, but doing this on a low key continuous basis would help the family, I think.

    That's a wonderful thing your group is doing.  The care and human contact and support is as valuble or more so than the gifts. 

    1. GailAnn | | #14

      Dear Miss Jane --  What a great idea.  I know how drastically a plan and a list (and a little time in the kitchen) can trim grocery costs!  Gail

      1. jane4878 | | #15

        Thanks, Gail. I lost my job about 12 years ago now (layoffs--cutbacks) and got a part-time job working with a federal government program called Brighter Futures for a couple of years. It's mandate was to improve and provide support for children up to age 6 and their families. That's where I learned about the Community Kitchen. It really irritates me that advertising and cooking shows make it look like it's really hard to cook. Years ago the CBC had a cooking show called the Urban Peasant (James Barber, I believe--he passed away recently). He threw stuff together and substituted all the time and had FUN with it. Like we're all too stupid to roast meat or put a stew in a slow cooker before we go to work. I cook with my husband while we're tripping over kids and the dog and I wouldn't want it any other way.That's my little rant!Merry Christmas.

        1. jjgg | | #16

          This is going to get a little bit off topic (from sewing) but I heard a report once on NPR about cooking shows on TV. They use all the techniques for filming that are used in porn movies. The type of music crescendo/decrescendo, the angle that they film from, how they zoom into areas. It was quite an interesting show to hear how this was done, and that when they started using these techniques is when cooking shows really took off on TV.Sew, how can I b ring this back on topic? I'm not sure but it's been a very interesting thread, and I think the idea of teaching them how to shop, how to cook and how to recognize junk food is very good.My husband did atkins diet for a while, I learned to shop the perimeter of the grocery store, everything up and down the isles of the store are carbohydrates and junk.They need to learn about trans fats, (peanut better is ALL hydrogenated fats - trans fat) oh, I could go on and on, but I won't

          1. jane4878 | | #20

            I read in a magazine somewhere quoting Martha Stewart that she took baking cookies as seriously as Queen Victoria took running an empire.  That's not what life is about!  This was pre-jail so maybe she's gotten a bit of a life since then.  It's like sewing--we need to relax and enjoy what we're doing.

          2. susanna | | #21

            What a great idea to anonymously donate with a group! One thing I'd caution against is assuming the woman does not know how to cook from scratch on a limited budget. She might know a lot about it!  I have read all replies with interest and was going to reply but somehow added scrubbie (?) to an ignore list when I didn't mean to. How can I retrieve this?

            Happy New Year!


          3. jane4878 | | #22

            I'm not assuming anything, it's advice--it's up to Gail and her group to decide whether or not it applies in this case.But in my world I have seen infants almost dead from anemia and internal bleeding due to being fed cow's milk or watered down oatmeal, dental OR days booked solid with toddlers and preschoolers getting the "works"--removal or filling of all their baby teeth due to being fed pop and juice in a baby bottle. Pregnant women (and this includes 30ish middle class women) so anemic from iron deficiency and malnutrition they often need transfusions while they're pregnant. A co-worker of mine jokes that they're on a balanced diet--a coke in one hand and a bag of chips in the other. I see people die from kidney, liver failure, diabetic complications and heart disease. It's made me quite cynical. I'm not perfect, but I try at least. On the brighter side I've watched obese families in the grocery checkout line change from buying all pop, chips and chocolate bars to buying milk, meat, eggs and fresh produce. Someone is out there working very hard with these communities to educate people in nutrition. Happy New Year,

          4. GailAnn | | #26

            Yes, I've noticed this too, and don't have the slightest idea of what to do about it or how to help. 

            I really blame the fact that Home-Ec classes are no longer manditory in most school districts.  I've said it before, After I learned to read, everything else, really important, and necessary to my adult life, I learned in Home-Ec!

            We were so strongly taught that what we ate at 14-15-16 would definitely affect the health of the children we would later bare.  Of course, back then, we WANTED to be good wives and mothers, managing the thrifty home.

            In this particular family the children seem to be healthy, and properly nourished, but the Mom is very large.  I wonder if that is because "starchy" foods are less expensive and make up the mainstay of her diet, while the children get some milk and eggs.

            At different times, I have brought this family some fruit, and it is always well recieved.   Once just a bag of grapes, and you'd have thought it was a bag of gold!


          5. jane4878 | | #27

            I agree with you.  Proper nutrition should be stressed at school.  My son in High School had to take a course called CALM (career and life mgt.)  I don't know whether or not that included nutrition.  He also takes Food and he's quite a slick little cook.  I agree with your mother--grapes ARE like a bag of gold!  She probably is eating too much starch because of the cost of protein.  As a student I lived on sardines!  A cheap source of protein.  I trained my kids to like them too. :^)

  7. User avater
    Becky-book | | #23

    Bless you, and your circle of friends!
    I think this is a good choice, a wise use of your "charity assets" (money and time). It doesn't sound like the mom is looking for hand outs, is working hard to keep the family together, and is known to some of you over a reasonably long time (3 years?)"This is pure religion and undefiled, to care for widows and orphans." The exact allocation of time and money will be something only those close to the situation can decide. Sometimes quite nice clothing can be purchased at a Thrift store for a fraction of what it would cost to make a similar item, to say nothing of the savings in time.Bless you all,

    1. GailAnn | | #25

      There is a wonderful, very, very clean Thrift store, only 2 or 3 miles from my house.  20% off everything on Sunday afternoons.  A lady who I know bought a nearly new, Coach bag for under $10.!

      Shopping for and giving secondhand clothes, doesn't seem very kind to me....but perhaps, money and a car ride for the girls (at least) might be.  Gail

  8. vallerand | | #24

    What a great idea, and how fortunate you are to have this 'circle' of friends for so long!

    I think sewing for the 2 youngest would probably be the most appreciated and used items.  And also the quickest and easiest for you 3 hours a week.

    Unless you know the teenagers, I would never dare purchase clothing for them, it is such a hard time and every little tiny thing can be a 'big deal' to them.  Especially if they feel seperated already due to their situation.  Like many here I was not well off growing up.  I was the youngest of 6, and had hand me downs until I got a job and could purchase or sew the clothing I wanted.  I didn't know any different though.

    I think sewing a prom dress is well meant, but really not very practical.  Fabric is so expensive these days, getting a dress for one occasion that will never be worn again?  That I would suggest going to a thrift store for.

    I think sending over the sewn items for the younger ones, and hats or mittens or smaller items for the older kids and the rest of the budget as cash every month is a great idea. 

    What a wonderful thing to do for your community.

    I hope you have inspired others to do the same, I know I will be asking my 'circle of friends' about this idea.


  9. ctirish | | #28

    Wow, a fabulous group to be sure. After reading all the posts I was thinking about a time in my life when we did not have much money and what was missing. Doing this anonymously is the hard part but having your friends help when you feel helpless is worse. I have 4 grandchildren and I can't believe what they charge for clothes for them. I remember people giving me clothes that were cheap and they barely lasted through the one wash day. Clothing for the one year old could be sewn so easily and a big help. Show the older girls the clothing made for the one year old and see if they would like to learn how to make t-shirt tops, and shorts. Make the older girls a purse out of old jeans or a denim pillow for her bed and see how that is received. When I lived on Colorado for six months one of the things that was different was all the boys took sewing and they made wallets, tents, backpacks, storage containers. The other thing I remember not being able to afford was fresh food; fresh fruit and vegetables. Getting those to this family on a regular basis would be like heaven to the mother. The problem with working all those hours is even if she buy fresh fruit she isn't there to make sure it get eaten before it goes bad. If you can figure out a way to have someone drop smaller amounts off a couple times a week, you have a better chance of getting it eaten on a regular basis. The mother is way too tired to cook with fresh veggies when she can get pizza or McDonald's to the table faster. Just remember she feels beaten up and beaten down trying to provide for her family. The other thing you can do is make sure she is getting all of the support she can from outside agencies. Maybe someone close to her can ask her if she is signed up for extra help with utilities etc. The last thing I can think of is for this group to take her out for dinner and a movie. She won't want to go, she doesn't think she deserves it, but if you can convince her take her out once a month and have it be girls night out where everyone does a little venting about their problems so she doesn't feel like she is the only one with problems. God Bless you, j

    1. GailAnn | | #29

      Thank you for so many really good suggestions. 

      Last year my adult daughter and I took this mom out for lunch on her birthday.  We intended it to be a kind and friendly gesture, but the mom was ill at ease the whole time.

      I really felt like we did the wrong thing, perhaps even a disrespectful thing.  Later I decided that it was akin to "Giving a child candy who had not had dinner."

      That lunch may have represented two or three family meals to her.  Gail

      1. MaryinColorado | | #30

        Perhaps some movie tickets so she can actually take her children out to see a movie?  When my grandkids were younger, we gave them a yearly membership to the zoo as a family Christmas present.  The following year, the children all requested this rather than toys.  It meant so much to them to be able to have fun together as a family.  The membership included several free tickets so they were able to "treat" thier friends once in awhile.  (Waterparks, amusement parks, and recreation centers in your area might also offer yearly or seasonal memberships.) 

        Does she own a good stroller?  That is a necessity to most of us, but  a luxury to some.  Car seats are so expensive, they are a wonderful gift also, if she has a car. 

        Do any of your group have businesses that might help this family?  Such as auto repair, car wash coupons, dry cleaning of winter coats, tv/electronics repair or discounts, an accountant to do her taxes, pharmacy?  Here, the schools sell Gold C Coupon booklets for about $10.00 that have coupons for all sorts of things.  A gift certificate at a pharmacy might also be helpful, non prescription medications are often a hardship, they can also buy many other needs there.  Mary

        1. GailAnn | | #31

          Thank you for the wonderful suggestions!  We meet this Thursday at noon, I'll bring these ideas with me.  Gail

          1. MaryinColorado | | #32

            God bless your little group for having such big hearts! Mary

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