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McGuire: Family Shelter Service offers safety, support during holidays

Community voice

At holiday time, people affected by abuse especially need the kindness of strangers, for this is when they are at their most vulnerable — cut off from everything and sometimes everyone they are close to.

Family Shelter Service was founded 37 years ago to address the unique needs of these individuals both at holiday time and throughout the year.

For many of our clients, staying in shelter during the holidays can be one of the most difficult times. Our client, "Angela," fled a violent home with her two young children shortly before the holidays. In shelter, with time to reflect on the tragedy of her abusive relationship, she became overwhelmed. 

To help her heal from the trauma, Angela underwent individual counseling and also participated in Family Shelter's Mom and Kids Support Group with her children. 

As the holiday approached, Family Shelter supporters and former clients began to stop by with donations and gifts for the women and children in shelter at the annual Holiday Shoppe event — this year on Dec. 6 and 9. One woman told Angela that she had been in the same situation at one time and that she couldn't stop thinking about the mothers and children who would spend their holiday in shelter.

Angela was touched and moved by the generosity of these people who did not know her. She and her children were invited to participate in Family Shelter's annual Home Sweet Home event – this year on Dec. 7 at the Abbington, Glen Ellyn – a community gingerbread decorating event featuring storybook characters and Santa Claus.

Other mothers in shelter came as well and she found herself celebrating with people who understood her experience better than anyone. Angela later commented that it was the most tranquil holiday that she had ever had. 

While we always hope that our shelter will be empty this holiday, we know it will not. Domestic battery is the most prevalent crime in Illinois, according to the Illinois Crime Commission. It is critical that we all participate in making the issue known in our community, so that another family won't have to spend their holiday in shelter, depending on the kindness of strangers.

Maureen McGuire is the marketing and communications representative for Family Shelter Service

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