Drive for the Home of the Innocents
I had seen Home of the Innocent’s billboard on Frankfort Avenue hundreds of times, but I’d never read it until an evening in late January when I decided to walk to the store instead of driving. After dropping some envelopes into the mailbox outside of Walgreen’s, I turned around and met the full force of a powerful yet simple piece of advertising: the face of a child next to the words “Protecting kids from the people they love.”
Though I’ve always admired their work, I had never realized that Home of the Innocents was an emergency shelter. For the first time in months, I didn’t think about politics, my job, or myself. I felt ashamed that I had forgotten some of the most vulnerable members of my community, that I had just been standing on the sidewalk grumbling about paying bills and being cold as I walked back to my safe, warm home filled with all of the things I need, plus many more items that I could live without. I had a fridge full of food. A nice car with a full tank of gas. I wasn’t worried that someone I deeply feared but loved would be inside my house waiting to take his or her anger out on me, nor was I wondering if I would be able to eat again soon or if I’d get to sleep in a bed or use a toothbrush that night. I felt grateful in a profound way, and I knew that I needed to act.
Before I began walking home, I pulled out my phone to take a photo of the billboard and posted it on Facebook. I asked my friends and customers if they would be up for a supply drive or fundraiser party at Fond, my restaurant & tiny grocery store. The response was pretty remarkable, so the next morning, I announced a supply drive with the goal of collecting at least one of every item on the Home’s Winter Wish List in five days. Each donation brought to Fond would be traded for a small gift certificate, and each donor would be entered to win a massage from Missy at Sensations Salon & Spa. Because the deadline was so soon, I wanted to make sure there would be plenty of motivation for folks to get involved quickly.
We managed to put together all but five items on the list in five days. Most people brought their donations directly to Fond. Others sent me money via PayPal that I shopped with, which is something I’m always willing to do for a worthy cause. There were some items that I assumed would be nearly impossible to casually collect, like furniture and toddler beds, but one couple surfed Amazon and donated two new beds with sheets, blankets, AND pillows! Immediately after the deadline, two more donors provided most of the items we still needed, so we just barely missed the goal. I am very proud of how much we were able to achieve in one week, and I hope that our drive will inspire others to take up collections of their own.
Especially in times of political and social unrest, it’s easy to assume that people don’t care about each other because they’re not actively or visibly lending hands to affect change, but just staying alive tends to be overwhelming, expensive, and distracting for most of us. When you’re able to focus long enough to select a worthy cause for your spare time or your extra money, it’s difficult to know where your contribution will make an impact. I know firsthand that Home of the Innocents is a place where every donation counts and will literally change lives. It’s an organization that allows you to rest easy on your pillows at night knowing that you’ve helped provide both pillows AND safety for people in need of these very basic human essentials.
Unfortunately, there are far too many choices in this world when it comes to deciding when and where to donate our excess resources, so we’re all more likely to be generous when we have a specific cause to focus on. I’m happy to be a person shining a flashlight into the dark areas one by one, smiling, and saying, “Come on – let’s do this!” The more attention I can divert towards attainable goals that will help people in need, the better the world will be. Seems like a pretty fair trade to me.