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Emergency Shelter Pulls Off Christmas ‘Miracle’

For most people, the holidays are a time for joy and spending time with family.

For the kids staying in the Child Saving Institute (CSI) Emergency Shelter, however, it can be a time of loneliness and frustration as most cannot go home to celebrate.

Emergency Shelter Director Teffany Murphy was inspired when she heard a sibling of one of the youths in the shelter requesting a $10 Taco Bell gift card so he could have a hot meal on Christmas day. Murphy knew they had to do more.This year, the Emergency Shelter staff planned and hosted a family-style dinner for the youth staying at the shelter over the holidays. Murphy leveraged a generous donation to invite the youth’s families to enjoy Christmas dinner with them right here at CSI. Staff also “shopped” the Substitute Santa program to ensure that the youth and their siblings received holiday gifts.

Curtisa Brye, Emergency Shelter supervisor, wrote this account of the event to share with the donors:

The Emergency Shelter held a family dinner on Christmas with the youth and their families to celebrate the holiday season. The meal was catered by Hy-Vee and prepared by the staff. As I am writing this I can’t help but laugh a little because we were able to pull off a Christmas miracle!

The dinner was meant to be fully cooked so all staff had to do was warm it up. That did not happen. Staff realized the food needed to be cooked — two turkeys, a ham, and prime rib and all of the sides. The staff on duty made calls to staff members who were not scheduled to work. Several of them completely changed their plans so they could come help. The staff came together, prepared the meal, and got everything done in time — including wrapping Christmas gifts for the youth’s siblings.

The dinner was delicious and it was a huge success. The youth were so happy to see their families. Everyone ate, talked, and laughed and some family members even played card games together. It was a tremendous joy to see the smiles on the youth’s faces and also to see how they connected with their loved ones.

CSI has started a new tradition. During this time of year it can be very difficult for the youth who are not able to go home on a pass and visit their families. We are not the youth’s family nor can we ever replace their family members and we know this, but during their temporary stay in the Emergency Shelter we can provide a feeling of home and what it is like to know someone cares, gently nudging them to make better choices in their lives. 

On Christmas day, the youth were surprised with gifts under the tree. One youth remarked that Child Saving Institute gave her everything she wanted and needed and that they were the only gifts she received this year. It warms my heart to know that Child Saving Institute was able to give our youth a family Christmas celebration. Thank you.

It was truly a sight to behold. Everyone was one their best behavior and having fun, just as people do each year during the holidays. The generosity of complete strangers brought the comfort of family to youth during a challenging time in their lives.

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