I wanted to call it, Werthan Lofts Bring Christmas Cheer to Cheatham Place. But when I thought about it, that's not really fair. So I thought maybe, Cheatham Place Brings Christmas Cheer to Werthan Lofts. You decide.
You may recall when I blogged about Cheatham Place previously - it's a Metro Development Housing Authority (MDHA) community just across the street from my residence in Werthan Lofts. It's a lovely community of small, brick buildings impeccably maintained by the management team (and listed on the National Historic Register). And it's also home to lots of people who don't live the life of luxury that I have been blessed with.
What you probably don't know, unless you live here, is that every year for the past three, I have organized a Werthan Lofts Christmas Toy drive for the children of Cheatham Place.
I first realized just how many kids lived there by the sounds of their laughter as they played throughout the community on afternoons in the summer and most holidays. Seeing and hearing that laughter is one of the best things about living in my loft!
In 2006, shortly after moving to Werthan, I met with Peaches Manning, the Housing Coordinator for MDHA to ask about a toy drive. I figured I would do some small thing to help the community kids, many of whom don't receive many gifts during the holiday season. Turns out, it would be no small thing! There were 120 kids living in Cheatham Place! And there were only a few days until their holiday party. Not much time.
The residents of Werthan came together and made it happen. Donations of presents came from dozens of residents. others without time to shop gave money. Volunteers shopped. Together we organized hundreds of gifts for kids of all ages.
For three years, I have continued this effort. Often at the last minute. And often with very little time in my own busy schedule (and these days not much money - since the real estate market downturn has drastically reduced my own income).
Fact is, I can't NOT do this. Because no one is more blessed by the gifts of this event than those of us at Werthan who participate.
We are blessed by the generosity of our neighbors. Every year the email requesting gifts and cash is met with new donations from new residents in amounts I am always surpised by.
We are blessed by the cooperation of our community retailers. This year Big Lots dug deep and located 48 mini radios for $2 each as gifts for parents and older kids in addition to the bounty of other items we purchased there.
We are blessed by the spirit of our community. In line buying the gifts, a woman behind me and my three carts of toys in line at the store asked me, "Who are you, anyway?" When I told her, "No one," and explained the toy drive; she responded, "Then you're not no one. You're Santa Claus."
We are blessed by the spirit of these children. I sat last night at the Cheatham Christmas Party, hearing the same laughter fill the room that I hear so often from my loft. This was before any presents, food or music. It would continue even if the music, food or music wasn't there. It was then I realized that these kids don't need me or Werthan's gifts. They are blessed with the love of their families who struggle to provide them a safe environment in which to grow and to love. And it's working. That laughter is proof.
It turns out, I need them. Happy Holidays!