Playing Santa | Volunteer Blog

When I think of Christmas, I feel mixed emotions for so often the excitement is countered by unmet expectations. Those who work on gifts question the efforts when the receiver seems unappreciated. However, Santa, unlike a parent, a sibling or a colleague, is ALWAYS appreciated and ALWAYS loved. Most everyone would welcome a chance to be Jolly Old St. Nick.

Homes and Havens, a local two year old nonprofit, is a kind of Santa for it brings unimaginable joy.  Just as Santa gives to the children who are “nice,“ it recognizes women who have really made significant progress from trying situations.

On my first visit to a Homes and Havens “home install,” I was to see a home “transformed“ for a client. Driving through one of the poorest sections of Chattanooga having passed by barbed wire fences, broken windows and collapsed roofs, I came to the home of a woman who had been released from Next Door Chattanooga.

Now with a mentor and job prospects, she was ready to reenter society after over a decade. I imagined her trepidation at trying to connect. She had to rebuild her life. Once I went into the house, I saw how she had tried to create a home from minimal resources. Seeing her quarters helped me to grasp one of Homes and Havens main goals: to provide women an environment where finally can feel worth it after being downtrodden. Her home needed serious work. 

In comes Santa Claus, not in a sleigh but in a Bellhops moving truck and the Homes & Havens van. Out goes the old mattress, the cast-off couch and meager furnishings. In comes newly-painted donated furniture, abstract original canvases in soft hues, new lamps, new linens and pillows. 

The place is not just better. It boasts an overwhelming change.

For this install and many others, three Homes & Havens staff members collaborated to design a little bit of heaven for someone in need.

So why is Homes and Havens like Santa Claus? Their work is not just practical and giving; it is amazing. It deserves superlatives. They do not create a pretty good home, they work miracles. When women enter their new homes, they are not politely appreciative rather they are gleeful like children at Christmas or a mega bucks lottery winner.  Never in their wildest dreams…

Being part of Homes & Havens for a home install day is like being Santa’s helper. For those who think of volunteer work as the “I ought to but I  don’t want to,” this is a chance to rethink.  ‘twas a holly, jolly endeavor.

Do it. Try it. Donate a nearly new bureau, help with an install and bring good cheer. The rewards are great!

Written by Robin Howe