EAST LIVERPOOL - A young mother and her child, in need of help and a place to stay.
That modern-day Christmas story, so reminiscent of the ancient one, played itself out at CrossRoads Assisted Living at Beaver Creek on Sunday - with residents and staff reaching out to nine women and 17 children from Fleming House in Lisbon.
The generation-spanning Secret Santa event resulted in an unexpectedly rich Christmas for the children and their benefactors. "I have never seen such generosity," Tabitha Townsend, one of the mothers, told the residents.
Kloe Piscura, 2, looks up from her mother Tabitha Townsend’s lap just after opening a Christmas present at CrossRoads Assisted Living at Beaver Creek. The presents were part of a Secret Santa event for the women and children of Fleming House on Sunday. (Photo by Stephen Huba)
"I'm breathless at your generosity for these youngsters and their mothers," said Eloise Traina, executive director of the Family Recovery Center, which runs Fleming House.
CrossRoads chose Fleming House for its Secret Santa event this year because the women who live there - some of them homeless, some just out of treatment - are not in a position to bestow many good things on their children this Christmas, said Penny Traina, CrossRoads executive director.
Fleming House is a transitional home for women and their children, with one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Women who live there are encouraged to work, perform community service and attend 12-step meetings.
"They go through a recovery program and then graduate. Most of them are employed part time. They do a lot of different things to get themselves back on their feet," Eloise Traina said.
CrossRoads solicited gifts for the children through a giving tree located in the front lobby and through Secret Santa letters written by the children, Penny Traina said. Residents took stockings from the giving tree and registered their gifts at the front desk. Staff members handled the individual gift requests, usually toys, in the letters.
"I really like Batman and the evil villains," wrote a 4-year-old boy named Levi. "They are really fun to play with. I also enjoy watching the 'Power Rangers.' I love reading and learning with my mommy."
A girl named Dorothy, 12, wrote, "I've been good this year. I would like nail polish (neon colors). Or I would like a zebra print pillow."
"I have been real good for my mom," wrote Delos, 9. "Can I have a Nerf gun?"
Penny Traina then assembled a Christmas wish list for the children. "The entire facility had a part in it," she said. "Our goal was for everybody to get a pair of pants, a shirt and a toy."
As she distributed the gifts on Sunday, residential manager Laura Martin said, "I'm getting goosebumps. This is so exciting."
In return, after opening their presents, the children distributed handmade Christmas tree ornaments to the residents. "It's so they learn to give back," Eloise Traina said.