Give Back : Life at the Ronald McDonald House

Hello, my name is Gail.  I am friend of Amy and Jen’s and they have asked me to write about our recent night providing dinner for the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House.  I am sure most of you have some familiarity with this charity, named after America’s most popular Fast Food Chain Mascot. However, Amy promises me she has real life friends that have never taken their children for a Happy Meal, so maybe a little explanation is in order!

Ronald McDonald House Charities began 35 years ago; their goal, to create a home-away-from-home for families of sick children, has been realized in 52 countries.  Those homes, just like the two we have in the Denver Metro area, rely on donations from corporations and individuals.  So yes, you can justify that weekly or daily (Miss Amy) diet coke run, especially if you throw the extra change in the Ronald McDonald House tin, knowing the company supports a worthy cause.  Also know that there are other meaningful ways to contribute to these great places!

On a personal level, my introduction to Ronald McDonald House began thirteen years ago when my daughter Leah was born premature and spent one month at Children’s Hospital.   We are so fortunate to have a world-class Children’s Hospital right in our backyard.  Our thirty-minute commute to spend our days with Leah was nothing compared to many of the families traveling from other states to seek care for their own premature babies.

Fast forward to a few short months ago and the glorious news of the birth of my niece, Vera Lael, was quickly followed by a cryptic text:  “The baby is being transferred to another hospital and Lori (my sister) is in ICU.”  I hopped on a plane, arrived in Pennsylvania and drove straight to a downtown Philadelphia hospital to be the first family member to visit Miss Vera.  One thing we don’t often think about when receiving news of a sick child is the circumstance of that child being taken to a location hours away from their home. This was the situation of my niece’s hospitalization.  Enter the Ronald McDonald House, where my sister and her husband were housed and fed for an unheard of rate of $15 a day.

Vera’s time with us was short; she died only two weeks after being born.  The time we were able to spend with her was in large part due to the charity of the Ronald McDonald House in Pennsylvania.

Getting back to Amy and Jen, one of the blessings of knowing them, is their utter dedication to serving God and others.  Upon my return to Denver, I approached them with the idea of providing a meal to the Ronald McDonald house in Denver in honor of my niece Vera.  Their response was a resounding yes!  The job we signed up for was simple: provide, cook and serve a meal to the residents of the house.   The approach is unique in that the staff encourages volunteers to sit and eat with the residents.  We volunteered as three families and when I mentioned to the staff that we wanted to include our nine children along with dinner and plan an epic egg hunt the staff response, was “Wonderful!”

As I was preparing to take the meal down to Denver, my heart was heavy with the memory of sweet Vera, and it dawned on me, the next day was Easter.  Now, I knew it was Easter, as I had just packed a cart full of plastic eggs to take for the egg hunt, but as tears came to my eyes I realized the significance.  On Good Friday, we remember the cross, the inescapable reality of death, but Sunday is on the horizon.  For families with sick children they are in the midst of Friday, it is dark and uncertain, but Sunday is coming.  In service we are there on Saturday between the darkness of Friday and pointing toward the Hope of Sunday.   Sometimes that Hope is in the form of a chaotic egg hunt and really good Chicken Chile Lasagna.

 

 

 

We found Ronald McDonald House lives up to their promise of a home-away-from-home for families of sick children and for one night that was our home and we offered food, fellowship and fun to those residents!  One quick shout out to Lisa for preparing the best Chicken Chile Lasagna ever!!

 

 

Give Back: Clean Out For Kids

 

Here’s a great opportunity to spring clean for a cause!  I seem to gather bags of give away items each spring when I go through our closets, toy bins, and bookshelves.  Instead of donating the items (also a great idea!) this program called “Clean Out For Kids” encourages us to host a yard sale and donate all the money to fight hunger in America. 

The surprising statistic that 1 in 4 children in America do not get enough food each day is a reality.  Clean Out For Kids is a part of a larger movement called “No Kid Hungry by 2015.”   Check out this website for more information:

http://join.strength.org/site/TR/General?fr_id=1140&pg=entry

The last couple of years our family has donated the money we have made at our neighborhood garage sale to World Vision (my personal fav charity).  We make signs so the customers know their money is going to World Vision.  The kids usually bake cookies to sell and raise money at the garage sale….and, people give extra knowing their money is helping a great cause!

I just want to add that if you are not in a place in life to give, I totally understand!!  I’m not actually in that place right now either…all my energy seems to be going to work and my family at the moment.  There are seasons where we have the capacity to do more, and seasons where we are running on empty.  If your tank is full, please jump on board with one of the giving opportunities we share here at Gracefullhome, or one of your personal favorites. 

We would love to hear what you are up to!

Give Back : College Shirts Update

Jen
 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

   “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16

Happy Friday everyone!  A few weeks ago we posted about helping children in a local school set their eyes on college.  On a sunny Sunday afternoon, my family headed up the highway to Old Navy.  We set the vision for our kids, explaining how there are families who have never been to college.  Most of the children in these families come from broken homes and it is not likely that they will graduate from high school.  We want to be part of encouraging children from these families and giving them hope.  There are great people involved in this school who are helping the families and the children.  This is a small way we can support their efforts.  Honestly, my family gives because God has given so much to us.  We give because we want to participate in loving and giving hope to all of God’s children.  We trust that as we give, God is celebrated!

If you would like to give a shirt you can drop them off at my house anytime before April 1st or, you can mail them to Tawni Mansur by April 15th, TAX day!

Tawni Mansur
620 Lotus Way

Broomfield, CO 80020

A HUGE Thank You to all of you who have already sent your shirts in!!!

You might not want to give a shirt and that’s okay! I encourage you to look around and do ONE act of kindness this week. It can be as small as bringing your neighbors paper in. Give a homeless person some socks. Work at a shelter. Donate to Japan! Even $5. Giving is good for our hearts. If you do something, or someone does something for you, will you PLEASE come back and leave a comment here. Not because you are boasting, but because it’s encouraging to all of us. It’s the good news that is not often reported. As you read stories of what others have done, I think, we will all celebrate!

Have a great weekend!

Give Back : E4 : What Can I Do?

Jen
Hi!  I am sharing a post written by our friend Brynn.  She has always been so loving and encouraging to us!  I look around the globe right now and find myself asking the very question at the front of this post.
What Can I Do?
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.”  – Helen Keller quote that I heard from Lynne Hybels at The Justice Conference in Oregon.
So, what can you do?  This a question that we wrestled with through The Justice Conference.  Poverty, HIV/AIDS, human trafficking, disease, orphans – it can seem so overwhelming that we just decide to ignore the plight of most of the world, because it is difficult.  We also tell ourselves that the problem is so big that there is nothing we can do.  I have been there in the past, but now know that every one of us can make a huge difference in God’s plan for his world.  We tend to question God at times, and ask Him why He allows the world to be this way and why doesn’t He do something?  Shane Claiborne’s reply to this at the conference was that  “God says – I did do something – I made you – now, GO DO SOMETHING!”  Makes sense doesn’t it?  Didn’t God put believers here to continue the ministry and work of Jesus? If every one of Christ’s followers got involved in just one of the issues close to His heart, we would change the world.
So, again, what can you do?  Get involved – in anything that follows God’s heart for hurting people.  Serve in your community at a lower income school that needs support, get involved with clothing closets or food banks in your area, find a global cause that you can give financially to, volunteer your time for any ministry organizations that you know of.  It takes effort – the opportunity for service often does not show up at your door (although sometimes it does – with a neighbor or a friend).  You have to put yourself out there and pray that God will show you where he wants you to serve.  
I have not been able to stop thinking about this article that I read a few days ago –  It is a list of “guiding trends” that is put together every ten year by a Christian Foundation called “First Fruit”. They interview over 100 leaders in academia, policy, business, NGOs and Christian Ministry and select 10 trends that they believe will most significantly influence the coming years.  One of the trends really stuck with me as it is so central to our hearts at E4 with everything we do, and also related perfectly to all that was discussed at the Justice Conference.
“INCREASE IN WOMEN AND CHILDREN AT RISK – Poverty, war, ethnic conflict, massive migrations and environmental strains will contribute to a significant rise in and increased awareness of women and children-at-risk of human trafficking, sexual exploitation, forced labor and displacement.  Globalization, inexpensive travel, porous borders, and high rates of corruption will contribute to an ease of trafficking women and children across countries and regions.  At-risk women and children will continue to experience a greater hazard of HIV, Malaria, Tuberculosis, and other global pandemics, causing many deaths and major social and economic disruption.  The number of children orphaned by AIDS, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, will continue to swell.”
This brings up many specific areas of service that you can get involved in.  If you are looking for specific organizations or ways to help, but feel that you need more direction, please contact me.   I would love to help any of you in your quest to follow Christ and God’s heart for the poor, marginalized and those treated with injustice.  
Brynn Schmidt
Brynn@e4project.org

Give Back : Help Kids To Set Their Eyes On College : Give a Shirt!

Jen
I just received this wonderful email on behalf of a local school.  If you don’t have time to read it all skip to the last paragraph.  Very cool!  Pay it forward! (PS. DON’T FORGET TO SIGN UP FOR OUR GIVE AWAY!!! We will draw a winner on Friday!!)
 
So – I have unique opportunity for all of you that will not be possible without your help!  I just started working with a local elementary school in Lafayette, Colorado called  Alicia Shanchez Elementary School.  This is not your average elementary school…most of the kids that attend this school will not go on to graduate high school let alone go to college…that was until recently.  Sanchez elementary hired a lady to come in to give these kids and their families hope…she has taken kids from broken homes, kids that had no reason to want to learn, kids that don’t have coats, shoes, etc to wear, kids that were continually late or just never showed up and has given them reason to want to come to school by creating incentive programs with awards.  She has created an environment to get the parents involved with the school where as before, only a very small percentage of parents would even enter the school.  Bottom line – she has taken an elementary school that was filled with despair and she has filled it with hope!  Now she needs our help!!!
 
Here is where you come in…a high percentage of the kids come from homes where college is not even in their vocabulary…most of them would never dream of being able to attend college..until now!  What we would like to do for these kids is present them with a COLLEGE T-Shirt (any college is fine!) at the end of the school year.  We would like to at least plant a seed in them that college is an attainable goal and we feel this could be the first step to planting the seed.  Most, if not all of the kids that attend Sanchez could be the FIRST in their family to graduation high school and go on to college.  We want these kids to know that even though their circumstances may make it seem impossible to attend college, it is not impossible!!!
 
So – with all that said – we need about 320 college t-shirts.  The size doesn’t really matter except we will probably need a lot of small and mediums since these are elementary school kids.  Our goal is to present EACH and EVERY kid with a college t-shirt on the last day of school.  I have just a little over 250 people on this e-mail list, so if everyone will send me ONE college t-shirt (they can be in gently used condition) and then if you have friends that want to get involved…we will be able to make this happen!!!!!
 
So – I would love for you to be a part of this.  If you would like…please mail a t-shirt to the following address or if you live around the Broomfield area, I can arrange to pick it up!
 
Tawni Mansur

620 Lotus Way
Broomfield, CO 80020

 
I need to collect all of the t-shirts by the end of April!  Please let me know if you have any questions about this or would like more information on the school.
 
Thank you!!!
 
Here is a fun way for us to get to know each other better!  Leave us a comment on this post answering the following questions.
Let us know if you are going to send a shirt! 
From which college? 
Why did you choose that college?
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