By: Pamela Coopwood
Long after the holiday season is over, the gifts and givers are forgotten, the tree stored for another year; long after the last shred of tinsel is brushed away and the candles are relieved from their window sill vigils and the goodwill bell ringers have counted their stash, there remains on our sidewalks those whose needs remain. They still have their little cups and card board signs in hope that shards of goodwill remain even if accompanied by catty remarks and woeful glances. The homeless and disenfranchised of our community exist on the fringe of our society and every day, we have a choice to either turn our heads with closed hearts or extend a hand of compassion, realizing that life could have dealt us a similar fate if circumstances were different.
However, there are those in our community who dare to make a difference. They take time to extend not just a handout, but a warm welcome; to drop more than a coin but offer a haircut and a cup of hot soup; to give more than a drink, but a daily dose of compassion and care that extends beyond the seasons. They touch lives every day in whatever measures necessary, digging deep into their own resources, soliciting funds on behalf of their chosen charges and showing up on the coldest, wettest, hottest or darkest days. They are our communities’ unsung heroes that bring the spirit of holidays to the homeless and disenfranchised all year long. While there are others, I want to say thank you to a few on behalf of the many.
UnMasked has been a community resource since 2013. Its mission started in the heart of Crystal Vessel, owner of Xclusive Reflections beauty salon on Lafayette Boulevard. She saw an untouched need to reach out and help those exposed to hardships related to violence, displacement, physical or social abuses and other basic life depriving needs. She began by simply offering free salon services to the homeless and women effected by domestic abuse. Her outreach soon extended to the children affected by life’s circumstances and then, engaging her network of friends and family, she began sponsoring vision screening, feeding programs, loading backpacks filled with school supplies and cold weather clothing as well as gifts of personal hygiene products. Today, UnMasked is a 501c3 organization who regularly reaches over 200 members of these communities and on a case by case basis helps individual students and families recommended by schools, churches and other larger organizations. Thank you, Crystal, for seeking to reveal the true beauty of the person on the inside and elevate them to a higher level of self-confidence. Your demonstration of love in action, of being the hands and feet of compassion gives all of us a little hope of a brighter tomorrow.
Transitions4You is a small faith-based community program with operations which focus on communities that reside in hotels within Spotsylvania County. Envisioned in the hearts of Neal and Lisa Harris, their mission is to encourage and support displaced families and to assist them to gain stability in four main areas: Housing, Employment, Financial and Spiritual. Their motto: Empower. Equip. Reclaim. The Harris’ recognize that displaced families are not simply at risk but face a multitude of risk-factors which threaten their core identity and self-worth. They offer programs which empower families to reclaim their lives and move forward to a better tomorrow. Thank you, Lisa and Neal for seeing and being the eyes that really see and the ears that really hear the cry of the hopeless and then doing something so fearless and beautiful!
Both organizations reach deep into their own resources to care for their chosen populations. Each depends on the benevolence of those who say they would help if they knew how. Now that we know, we can! Let’s support their efforts. Let’s give generously so that they can continue as our hands and heart to these communities. Together, let’s make 2019 a year of Yuletide!
Pamela Coopwood, owner of The Planned Event/Speaking of Protocol, is an Ordained Minister who believes life is better we when we chose to see what God is doing and joins Him in that! She is always available to plan your next event, a cruise vacation and of course, to speak about Protocol!