This holiday season, it was very important for me to find outlets to give back. Above and beyond donating canned food or clothing items. Please don’t get me wrong, those types of donations are always needed and essentially helpful. Personally, I particularly wanted to make a connection with people and to volunteer in some way that gave them cause to feel a little extra holiday cheer . . . that they may not have experienced otherwise. This year my focus was senior citizens, for a few reasons.
Last year around this time, I was missing my sister. My younger sister, who blogs at Christian Journeys, spent a year living in San Francisco doing ministry and missions work with a group called San Francisco City Impact. She was not going to be able to be home with us until after Christmas so, as a way to show solidarity, I wanted to volunteer somewhere here in Houston. My church, Together We Stand, has several community partners. A great couple who are fellow church members work with Volunteers of America. They invited our church to volunteer with them on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, serving a meal and spending some time with the residents of one of the senior communities that VOA runs as part of their affordable housing program. Serving those seniors in 2016 was one of the highlights of my year and really stuck with me. They were so happy to have us for company. Many of them do not get to see their own family members very often. Sometimes they live to far away, are unable to travel due to work or health, and some residents have outlived or separated from the family they did have.
So, I wanted to close out 2017 with the same kind of good-hearted giving back . . . and maybe take it up a level. I’m a connector at heart. Bringing people together is a natural habit. I put my client, Stefani Vara, in touch with an awesome lady I know named Erin Creeks. I handle Brand Strategy for Stefani; who is an entrepreneur and professional footwear model turned motivational speaker. She’s also a recording artist. Basically, Stefani does everything she wants to do and encourages people to find their own fulfilling path in life too. She rocks! Erin runs one of the coolest groups in our city. MsIndependent is a group of fun, diverse women in Houston, TX. Erin runs the organization and curates all of the events which range from Girls Night Out to Volunteering and EVERYTHING in between. The MsIndependent website says “Our events are as diverse as our city, so whether it’s horseback riding, yoga, or a cuisine crawl, we want you to experience a life far less ordinary, and make a few friends along the way.” I knew that both of these ladies were wanting to give back in some way as well. My volunteering with seniors the year before stuck with me, especially since during the 2017 year I lost my grandmother. Stefani, who was missing her late grandmother as well, wanted to impact seniors in some way. And since Erin is an event genius together we came up with Ugly Sweater, Good Vibes. The idea was to give MsIndependent ladies a chance to mingle in ugly sweaters while giving back and sharing some holiday happiness with seniors. I called my friend at Portfolio Resident Services – Good Neighbor Program. PRS is an inter-faith nonprofit organization who provides programs and services for residents of affordable (low to moderate income) apartment communities. Their after school programs for children residents help with homework, and provide safe fun spaces for activities and learning right on site of their apartment community. They also have senior living community clients and were happy to put us in touch with one such facility in our area. We had a ball!
Stefani led the group of young and old in carols and holiday classics. She was even joined by a senior resident who told us that he frequents karaoke bars to sing Sinatra! We had manicure stations, donations & gifts, pastries, coffee & cocoa . . . and Erin set up the coolest station for making chic handmade holiday cards. It was truly an awesome day, and a high note to end the year on.