Friday, October 24, 2014

Partners in Giving

At Harbor House, we are largely funded by private donations.  Consequently, we have fundraising events and demonstrate to donors that we are, in fact, a worthy recipient of their gift.  In fact, one purpose of this blog is so donors can see the impact they are making every day.   I think that transparency is good for the donors.  I also think it's good for the kids of Harbor House to know that these donations allow us to pay for everything, in spite of several people asking if we "shielded" the kids and interns from knowing that people donated to them, as it may reinforce the kids' sense of inequity. 

Practically, it would be hard to conceal:  we bring donors through on tours frequently and children (just like the rest of us) are curious about the people walking through their program.  But it's a conscious choice, not an expedient one.  We do not shield them, we celebrate the donations and use them as examples. I have seen incredible responses from the children when they know that complete strangers want them to have a good program.  The idea that other people, most of whom haven't met them, would like to help them out, thrills them.  Let me explain:

Announcements happen right before devotion time and some of my favorite announcements are about fundraisers and donations.  We talk a lot about all being part of God's family, whether we are related by blood or not. They love to hear of creative ways people help us: supplying cakes for the cakewalk at our carnival, bringing volunteers to clean the house and provide snack, setting up and paying for field trips, tutoring kids right here, and raising money for everything we need.  And the kids are good at thinking of what takes money! When I asked them, the list included "water to flush the toilets, snack you buy us, paying the interns, pencils, field trips, phones to call our parents..." and on and on. 

A recent announcement was fun to share with the kids.  One of our volunteers whom the kids know and love chose to include a request for donations to Harbor House on his wedding registry.  I first explained what a wedding registry is, and then how he and his wife are passing up some extra presents so that people will donate to Harbor House instead.  The kids thought that was amazing and so incredibly generous.  

 But our kids are not only the recipients of generosity.  Although they are primarily low-income, they are themselves very generous people.  They have great hearts and  love to share (most of the time - they are still children) and help each other out.  I have seen countless examples of kids giving pencils or toys to each other, or choosing a prize and passing up their first choice so someone else can have it.  In addition, when we pray for people who have had something difficult happen, the kids often ask if they can make a card or picture for that person.

And that is another reason why I think it is good for the kids to see the generosity that they receive, so they reflect it in their own lives.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Faithful Partner

Every month, Harbor House gets a small check from a World War II veteran with a note saying that he's sorry he can't give more, but he's on a fixed income.  He adds that he's praying for us and wishes us the best.

We invited Gene to come talk to our older students and, much to our excitement, he accepted.  He told the kids about being a paratrooper jumping out of a plane into France on D-Day.  Although they have little knowledge of World War II, they got the idea of what he was telling them and asked questions like if he was scared, if he missed his family, and if he knew people who died (his answer was yes to all three questions).  He showed them a piece of his parachute, which he had kept, and pointed out the bullet hole in it.

The kids saw a picture of American soldiers that had captured a Nazi flag and recognized the symbol on it immediately.  Although they had very little idea of what the Nazi party actually was, they knew that the symbol on the flag was a symbol of hatred and racism and they asked about that.  Gene explained to them that there is no glory in war but that it was necessary to stop a greater evil.

Gene didn't tell us how old he was, but most of these kids' grandparents weren't old enough to be in World War II.  It was an invaluable experience for them to be able to talk to Gene and find out about his, and our country's, history.