Tuesday, December 22, 2015

102 presents

“Has he ever trapped you in a room and not let you out? Has he ever raised a fist as if he were going to hit you? Has he ever thrown an object that hit you or nearly did? Has he ever held you down or grabbed you to restrain you? Has he ever shoved, poked, or grabbed you? Has he ever threatened to hurt you? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then we can stop wondering whether he’ll ever be violent; he already has been.” — Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

SANTA visited Children and Families of Iowa domestic violence shelter in Des Moines last night, and Paul and I were elves. 

Somehow between Thursday night's Turner Center Jazz Orchestra concert and Monday night's shelter party, we managed to see to it that 102 presents were wrapped and delivered so that every resident got a pair of new pajamas and a new fuzzy blanket.

I wouldn't have made it without lots of help along the way. 

Sandy Roan and the Echo Valley Country Club Women's Golf Club had a holiday party and not only collected dozens and dozens of pajamas, but donated $1000 which allowed me to buy additional blankets and fill in the sizes I was missing.

Jo Ann Dreckman held a Red Hat Society Christmas party where guests brought almost 100 pairs of new pajamas, and Dee Schreffler sewed 27 blankets which she brought to the party for me.

Some of the Red Hat Society ladies who donated pajamas.

Melissa Kuennen held another pajama drive this year at the Ankeny YMCA.

Melissa and her Y drive.

Char Vukovich and her friends donated additional blankets so everyone would get one.

Paul and I bagged 51 new blankets.

Anne Owen and Leigh Josephs did a lovely job of boxing and wrapping half of the pajamas. 

Paul and I were shopping and wrapping pretty much non-stop Saturday, Sunday and Monday. 

And oh my, were the children excited to see Santa! I happened to be wearing a pair of mostly red pants tucked into tall, black boots and a Santa hat (above), which was inspiration enough for one adorable little five-year-old to look up at me with big brown eyes and ask, "Are you Santa?" Heart-melting innocence. 

Amidst the charm of excited children meeting Santa and opening packages, were sobering reminders of the reality that is domestic violence: among the group gathered was a woman with a broken leg and a fresh bandage on her head, and during the two hours I was at the shelter, a mom and her three children arrived, having had to literally run for their lives. 

I'd brought extra blankets and pajamas just in case, and shelter director Catherine Reaman-Gerdes and I scrambled around to make sure all four of the new arrivals had packages the same as everyone else. 

Catherine said that one of them, a little girl, had big sad, tear-filled eyes as she watched everyone get something from Santa, sure that she wouldn't, and the surprise and happiness on her face when she got packages too, was heart-tugging. 

The next morning Catherine saw lots of mothers and children wearing their new pajamas and carrying around their new fuzzy blankets. That was the goal. So once again: mission accomplished — temporarily.


  1. Good for you! Just a little less misery that first night and a bit of comfort in a world where they've experienced pain, fear and misery. Well done.

    1. Paul says if we change one life, we've succeeded.