Sunday, May 30, 2010

Happy beginnings....

Everyone looks for a happy ending. Myself included. But today, I sit here and I realize that we are celebrating a happy beginning.



I came from a solid family, we had food to eat, clothes to wear. In fact - while I was not wealthy growing up at all.....I was not poor. We had enough...and on most days - more than enough. I had no need to celebrate a "beginning" to my life on my own, because it kind of just happened. And I am sure that most of us can relate in some or all ways to this scenario. We had enough....and then we sprung forward into our own adult worlds.....got married....had children....worked....cared for our families and our friends..... The world spun us in the right direction. Our beginnings gave us what we needed to overcome hurdles and harship...And so we spend much time in our lives celebrating happy endings. The baby we wanted, the house we dreamed of, the ultimate job, the race time we strive for.....all happy endings to a well laid plan. Or....a not so well laid plan that just happened to send us down the right path!



This past week....and the week before that...I have been very much savoring all of my happy endings, and my ability to reach that ending because of the beginning that I took for granted.



And so this week we celebrate a new beginning for our family here on Amelia Island. They have been hungry, sick, without home, without a bed to sleep on or a toy to play with...without a place to call home, without clean clothes, without so many things. More withouts than "withs" in their lives to date. I swear the only thing consistent in their lives to date has been love.



And now, because of the love that was present in their eyes, and because they were willing to let us help and work hard with us to create it...... They have enough. The have a happy beginning.



Just to recap that beginning that you all gave to this family, I will list the items and services that they are now privy to because of donations and good hearts all around our awesome town. I feel that each person who has prayed for this family, and/or helped in some way, would like to see where it all lead!!!



The house is fully furnished with NICE, QUALITY, STURDY, USEFUL furniture and home accessories. Bunk Beds, solid dressers, pictures on walls, shelving, couches, tables, chairs, TV's, stands, storage items etc. etc.



The kitchen is fully stocked with dried goods, canned goods, cooking items, small appliances, and all dish and glassware. And let me tell you.....Grandma can cook!! :) And she uses it all with the most appreciation I have ever seen. Each spatula and whisk makes her smile. Measuring cups, pans etc. She is having a blast in the kitchen and the kids are eating better than mine right now!! I am just not a cook??!! ha ha



The children have bikes, helmets, books, art supplies, toys.....everything they need to have a fun day and to be excited about being home! And there are also toy boxes and storage bins for these toys and in the past few weeks I have yet to find a broken toy or missing pieces to games etc!! Amazing how when you have a place to put things...they stay nicer and available to the kids! :)



Both children and their Grandmother not only have enough clothes to last them at least a year - and longer for Grandma...she is not growing!! ha ha.....but they have been washed in their washing machine and put away in their new dressers so that they are easy to find and smelling fresh! :)



The bathroom has towel racks, towels, shower curtain and enough TP and shampoo and soap to last a decade!! :) Well..maybe not that long, but every time I go over and pick up Baby D...he smells like he just got out of the bath. He takes a bubble bath every morning and he just is so dear and smells like a fresh little sweet baby! :) It makes it even more fun to hug his cute little self!! :)



The children will Attend Step by Step preschool this summer at no cost. The most generous donation EVER and I am so proud to know the teachers and staff there!! They are AMAZING people. And the council for Aging is providing the care van (approval pending but it looks REAL GOOD) to take the kids to school each day over the summer months. The boys will be in school in the fall. Support provided by a number of areas including Florida's early start program etc. etc.



In addition, - and probably the biggest part of all of this - there are some wonderful people who will be keeping in touch with this family....making sure that all is well and that needs are met. People who will play with the kids and make sure they are learning.....just truly awesome people who have a love as deep as my own love for these children! And all of this....to assure that this beginning leads to a happy ending for them all!



I will miss this special little island...this wonderful little town. I moved here with sadness.....leaving a life that I was quite fond of, to travel far away. I knew no one, and I somehow even managed to get lost finding the school in our first week? Yeah...it was all so strange and different to me. And in no time at all, the people here made me their friend...they made this a home. And I now have to move on to the next phase of our life, but with much sadness. ON a brighter note, however, I leave here with the best memories, the hope of maybe returning, friends that have filled my heart and a sense of belonging that I could have only dreamed of! This has been the best two years and I thank you all for giving that to me and my family! Thank you Amelia Island...for EVERYTHING!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

A very crazy but rewarding day!

This has been the most crazy day. I woke up this morning wanting to provide a washing machine to my friends. Sad that the one that was donated could not be fixed....determined...but uncertain that it would be possible. That's what I woke up thinking about? Anyway...needless to say..it was an early morning. But it lead to an awesome day!

And now...as I end my day....I have this to report: Not only is Grandma doing laundry as I type this evening, but the kids are sleeping in bunk beds with almost new mattresses...they ate dinner together at the family kitchen table. They are watching a TV that no longer sits on the floor and are taking a shower that has an actual curtain to keep the water in? I mean....the list goes on and on.

It was a hard day of cleaning. Grandma, one of her daughters and I worked our tails off. But at no point was I working alone. They worked with me ALL DAY LONG. Going through hundreds of bags of stuff...some great things...other nothing but trash? It was long and frustrating.

Around lunch time, I was hungry and tired and nowhere near the end of the rainbow. A friend stopped by with some MUCH needed storage bins to help house some of the stuff that we were receiving. (by the way K...used EVERY ONE!!) And poor K.....She no sooner gets to the top of the steps on the porch that I start crying!! ha ha ha. Ahhh...i was frustrated...wanting more time....scared that I could not get everything that they needed...whatever....just a moment where I needed a hug. And there she was...my storage bin and laundry detergent fairy!! :) ha haha

And after that little moment of "no so great-ness" I just dug in and kept on going. Steve joined me after lunch. And we got it done. I mean...DONE!! :) While the cleaning and organizing efforts will linger on for another few days...when I left today THEY NEEDED only three more items on our list. And no joke....before I sat down to dinner I had people call and say that they had them. I have two dressers coming another fan and two lamps? What/? I mean....there is a greater power at work here my friends because this has just been amazing! :)

And my last bit of news is this: I go to pick up my kids at Step by Step today. They are going to school just a few days this week so that I can keep up the organization of donations for my friends. Well...the staff knew why the kids were going to school this week and several of the teachers there donated some much needed items. But what I didn't know is that some staff got together and talked to the director of the school and...

THE DIRECTOR OF STEP BY STEP OFFERED OUR TWO BABIES FREE TUITION FOR THE ENTIRE SUMMER AT THE ISLAND STEP BY STEP LOCATION. NO KIDDING!! :)

Was that not the most generous offer?!! I cried...I was amazed!!

So brain storm with me if you will...and Grandma is also working on this. how do we get the kids to school each morning. If they accept this scholarship - how do we help this family to make it work? Grandma does not drive? Is there a way? Let me know if you have any thoughts! !:)

Ok...that's all for now! :) Thank you and my love to all of you!! :)

Renee

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Here's what I am missing....

I have been asked by Grandma to please extend her gratitude to all of the people supporting her and her babies this past week! She is in awe of the support she is getting and truly - I don't know if I personally have ever experienced such true thanks!

So many awesome donations - food, needed items, gift cards...AMAZING! And it is all being managed and set up in the right places to assure the best possible outcome for this family. We are cleaning closets, organizing, throwing away the junk.....making this little place a real home for my friends! I am not only grateful for the donations and the support, but also in the openness of this family to let my husband and I come in and just take over - for hours on end! They prove to me on a daily basis how much they WANT our help. And the want is just as important as the need in my book! This means that she will take these gifts and move forward with a grateful heart and with the tools to keep their lives going in the right direction. It's been a good week!!

With that said....I wanted to update you also on the list of items that we are still in need of. And i'll tell ya...this list is getting shorter and shorter! Whoo hooo!! :) Oh...and there are some new items on this list. We are finding new needs and different needs as we work thorough this project.

Full Bed or bed frame.
Full Mattress and box spring
2 Dressers
Any type of storage containers for closets or under bed storage.
Hangers
Shampoo and soap
two porch chairs
Children's board books
TV stands (2)
plastic shelving for under counter (can be metal)

And that's about it!! :) Whoo hoo.

I have had three people volunteer to keep working with this family after my time here is over. One has offered to tutor...another to take the kids on play dates and a volunteer at St. Michael's Parish has agreed to be in charge if ongoing needs and weekly visits!! Man...what a week!! :)

Love to you all.

Renee

Friday, May 21, 2010

An AMAZING OUTPOUR OF SUPPORT!

Ok...I'll be brief, because I have my work cut out for me today....

I will take the kids to school and go visit Grandma. Let her know some of the larger items that we have coming to her and get her ready to organize and purge some of the less than desirable items that she has.

Steve and I have given my neighbors truck today and we are picking up some great items. A table and chairs, washing machine, toy box, box fans, dishes, silverware, end tables, coffee tables....

And in my garage I have sheets, towels, clothes, toys, awesome rugs, decor, food etc. etc.

I have a TV stand promised and a very nice couch. I have had people bring things, call me...and even drive down here from Kings Bay GA to drop stuff off. AMAZING!! :)

At this point, I have so much promised and I will update my list tonight on the blog once I have done the gathering today!! :) If I get everything that I think I am getting....we may even have it all! :) At what point, I will take future donations in the form of dry and canned goods, laundry detergent and help with the children!! :)

More to come...there are no words to thank you all enough for this amazing support of this very deserving and awesome family! This is better than a TV show! I am just in awe of the human heart! Thank you to everyone who has supported this cause and I'll be back with more soon!! :)

Renee

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A FAMILY IN NEED OF OUR HELP

A Family in need of our help!
(please read below for full story)
The deadline is JUNE 4th. Please drop off any items that you may have to:

2605 Portside Drive, Fernandina Beach, Florida 32034 (if I am not home…items can be left on the front porch. I won’t be gone long I am sure!)

Or call 556-6577 for pick up options. I’ll get anything you have to donate and make sure it gets to the family.

· Clothes washer (Washing Machine)
· Kitchen Table and Chairs
· Two double beds or bunk beds and possibly a dresser for clothes in the boys room.
· Double Bed and dresser set (does not need to match)
· Storage Bins that fit under beds
· Toy box
· Box Fans – at least three
· Bath Towels
· Twin and Full sheets/blankets/comforter
· Dish Towels
· Silverware
· Kitchen plates and glasses
· TV Stand for large TV that was donated
· Couch for living room
· Coffee Table – small
· Area Rug
· Play date for boys each week
· Once day a week tutor for kids (reading, games etc.)
THEY NEED OUR HELP.

One day they had a mother….and the next day she was gone. Two little men, so beautiful, so full of life. Just 5 years old and 2 years old. The children were placed in the care of their Grandmother about a year or so ago. The catch….she was homeless. The good news…she had a big heart and an even bigger lover for her grandchildren.

After months of living together in a homeless shelter here on the island – this new family has a home. Very close to Southside Elementary School where the older boy is in Kindergarten. It is small, and it is empty. But it is a home!! At long last!

They sleep on old twin mattresses that lay on the floor. No bed coverings of any kind. They have nothing to help make this transition into a life together easy. But despite the hardships, this grandmother has taken these children and is determined to give them a full life! She is truly a beautiful woman.

This being said, this is a woman who had been on her own and without a home for quite some time. She was once living on the streets with no one to be accountable for but her and now she has a home, with two babies that need her every strength….her every moment.
She needs help. Our help. Help for her help for these beautiful children. So that they may have a life that is comfortable, safe, and STABLE.

Currently: The 2 year old boy is currently being helped by the wonderful teachers at Southside to gain entrance into Florida’s bright start program. This will assure that a trained professional comes to the house to teach him until the age of three (November of this year) and then he can begin taking classes at Southside!. And the older child is receiving the necessary help at school due to the work of these amazing teachers as well!

But they need so much: I asked Grandma to please tell me EVERYTHING that she would want to help her in her day to day life with the boys. I told her to hold back nothing. I assured her that I would take this information and do my absolute best to find her the things that she needs. She was hesitant, as she didn’t want to seem greedy she said. But I assured her that this community knows the sacrifices that she is making and that people will WANT to help. And so she agreed to walk me around and create the list that follows.

When I left her house today, she was grateful, she hugged me and she hugged Ben and Kyle. She walked us to the car and said, “Don’t worry if you can’t get any of that stuff. We are just happy we know you.”

I’ll tell ya – this is just tearing at my heart. I want to help her…I need to help her. I need to push their lives to a level that they can live each day without being hungry, cold or scared. I want those kids to come home from school to cookies at the kitchen table and then play time in their rooms. …Family evenings in the living room together with their Grandma. Please help me to give this to them. Help me to teach this wonderful Grandmother what it is to have a home….and what it is to make a life for these children.

This is what we are looking for. Please send this list to anyone and everyone that you know. I have TWO WEEKS. Two weeks before I move from here and it is my mission to find each and every thing on this list!

Please help us in ANY way that you can. We are not looking for money…..just stuff and help with educating the children and giving Grandma an hour or so a week to herself. And if you have nothing to offer in these areas, then I just ask that you pass on my request. If this message gets into enough hands….it will get into the right hands!!

Thank you!

Sincerely,
Renee Mongold

Friday, May 14, 2010

Right here at home...

I turn on the news and I watch....the many many stories about people in need. Across the seas, in larger cities, in poverty stricken countries and disaster stricken areas. It is almost too much to handle at times. I feel helpless.





This past year, my heart and my attention have been directed to a different kind of crisis - to a different kind of plight. The plight of the poverty stricken families right here in my own world. Right here in my own town. This year, 8.9% of the families here in Nassau County are below the poverty level. Not low income....BELOW THE POVERTY LEVEL. Based on the 2009 population estimates, this means that 6,275 people....right here in this small area...will be unable to feed their children, afford clothing, afford education, have a quality life...this year.





Over 6,000 people. In Nassau County Alone......Children, elderly, men, women......they can't afford to live? Aghhhh.....how do you even hear this statistic? It hurts me in every part of my body just to type it and it brings a sting to my eyes to know that I love someone that is being affected by this reality right now.





I'll digress for newcomers on this topic for a second and take you back back to a story that I have been sharing all year. My little Mentee. He is 6. He is handsome. He is funny. But the truth of the matter is...he and his 2 year old brother have been living in a homeless shelter for many months. They have been abandoned by their mother, taken in by a family member that was no ready in any way to care for them, yet loved them enough to take them anyway....they have been hungry, dirty, sad, lonely....And now...finally....they have been given a real home!





Their own home! A great day....one would think. Until that is....I saw their new home. And I will not go into too many details, but for those of you who know me...I am not a cryer. And I cried for about 24 hours after leaving this "new" home.





I think I already knew what I would find when I went there. But I had such high hopes of more that I just didn't allow myself to think "real" thoughts. But there it was in front of me. It was not a home. It was dirty, smelly, empty, sad......





Yes...they needed 4 walls and roof, and they got that. But I think in my idealistic mind...this "home" is what they needed to come out of their struggle. And now I am forced to see it for what it is. A step...a small step....and now comes the harder part.





This family needs help to LEARN how to make a "home" and a "life" for themselves. Poverty comes from a lack of education in many cases - this case being no different. And just because we "give", just because the family has been "given" a home... does not mean that they know what to do with what they are given.





I took over toys, bikes, educational supplies and some other odds and ends. I took Ben and Kyle with me. And it was all very well received. My little Mentee had friends to play with...and the children has real toys to play with.....I'm tellin' you...the joy that I saw in that moment from the ENTIRE family....will stay with me as a warm spot in my heart forever. But it is not enough to stop here. That moment of joy is passed. They have "more" than what they had before we were there, but they don't have what they need.





Also, let me say that there are some other folks in this town that are helping as well. Really helping in some amazing ways! But the small lot of us is not enough!





And so I am asking, for a few things....For starters - just read this and pass it along. I am not a sales person for donations or help for the needy. I am an information provider. That is all I need to be, because just as I have a calling to help this family....so will someone else. I don't know who it will be, but they know who they are!





Feel no guilt if this is not an area that you choose to participate! Simply passing the word on is the best help you can give! Let's simply get this message into the heart of the right person! That is our job!





Over the next week I will be talking with several people and finding out TRULY....what the needs are for this family. I will be asking THEM - the CARE TAKER - WHAT DO YOU NEED. I know what I hope she says:





Someone to come in a ready to the kids once a week this summer.


A park date each week with peers for the children.


Canned goods full of healthy soup and veggies.


A kitchen table so they can eat as a family.


Help with preschool services for the baby.


Someone to help clean and organize the house.


A phone number of someone who would help them in a bind.


A support group for the care taker so that she always has a shoulder to lean on in a time of trouble.





In fact...I don't know what will come of this. She may say that she wants nothing from anyone. That is very possible.





And if that happens...then I have still accomplished a smaller goal. I have given you all a glimpse into the needs that surround us right here at home. And if we can do more...If someone finds a calling to do more...more for the children....more to help families in poverty to become whole....then I will sleep well. Then maybe that is what I was suppose to accomplish.


Just know that in the next two weeks...I will push to every level that I can with this - please keep this family in your prayers and in your hearts! And stay tuned for more. I don't know what MORE we are talking about...but MORE in one way or another! :)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Is he ready for Kindergarten?

This picture was taken at 6:30 AM. Ben is teaching Will kindergarten site words. And Will is learning them. This is why.........



Anyone that has a late summer or early Fall birthday for one of their children has gone through or will go through - the BIG decision. Is my child ready for kindergarten? There are many different philosophies about holding kids back. Some say that anyone with a late cut off birthday should be held back. Others say that all BOYS with these questionable birthdays should be held back. My take on it, is that it is an individual decision based on the child in question.


Ben had a questionable birthday and we sent him to kindergarten. He struggled with being away from mommy...crying on the bus....getting tired at school....all throughout his first year of school. Kindergarten was not easy for Ben. Academically, he excelled - but emotionally there were time where I regretted my decision.


Now, Ben is a thriving second grader. He makes friends with everyone - has all high a's on his report card...he is a perfect match for his grade. And in hindsight, I am glad that I made the decision to send him.


Kyle...with a September birthday missed the cut off by mere days. He is the oldest boy in his kindergarten class. He is the biggest boy in his kindergarten class. School work is too easy for him, he is not challenged AT ALL. In fact, his maturity level is so much larger than the other boys in his class, that he truly has not made friends with them. His friends are the girls. And when I ask him "why" he is not great friends with the boys he says...."They are nice mom, but they act like Will!" (his 4 year old brother)


Kyle does not like when people comment on his size, it has made him very self conscious. He is the best kid on the soccer team, but with that said, he is not really learning to play the game because he is the oldest and the only one that gets the sense of competition and game readiness? The kids will catch up with Kyle in maturity and in size, but until then, he does not love school, it is BORING (in his words) and that breaks my heart because he sees no reason for school? Not a great way to start an educational career in my mind.


And with that said.... we have Will. A questionable birthday yet again? Thank Goodness Josh's birthday is in the early spring. Much easier decisions to be made.


Is he ready? Well...if maturity were the driving factor, I would say yes. But his fine motor skills are weak and his frustration level is high because of it. And so we have decided the he will go to a private kindergarten in Virginian and then if he does not do well...we can go public school the next year. If he does do well..and I expect he "probably will", then he can move straight to first grade at his big brothers school.


And so....the point of all of this...is Kindergarten preparation. Because Will gets very frustrated when he is not fully in the "know" I feel we need to prepare him for what lies ahead. This is my plan:


I have told Ben and Kyle that I will pay them in game stop money if they can teach Will the top 20 Kindergarten site words. So for two days I have watched my to oldest boys try and teach their little brother. This is what they have learned:
Yelling at him shuts down his brain.
Bribing him with starburst to keep learning gives them lots more time to teach.
Teaching him to sound out the words rather than just memorize makes him learn them faster.
A smile on a teachers face and a little praise with each right answer makes Will so happy he wants to keep going.
The learning process takes repetition and it does not come in mere hours.
Convincing Will of the fact that they are a team...working toward the same video game goal makes him WANT to learn.
This is so fun to watch and truly.....if Will never learns a thing...it was worth it all just to see them work together so efficiently. But in fact...Will read off 10 words this morning....from flash cards...without hesitation? He was so happy...so were Ben and Kyle...and so was I. This may prove to be the first WIN WIN idea I have EVER had!! :)