Fredericksburg firefighters bring Santa to Mary’s Shelter

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With the reindeer resting up for Santa’s big trip this weekend, the Fredericksburg Fire Department stepped in to get St. Nick to Mary’s Shelter in Fredericksburg Dec. 17 for the fire department’s Turnout for Toys Stocking Drive.

“The Fredericksburg Fire Department coordinated a program in the community to support the residents of Mary’s Shelter this Christmas,” said shelter volunteer Elena Doyle. “They put out the word to local businesses and community … and collected donations of coats, shoes, clothing, diapers and toys for our residents and our respite families as well.” 

For the past 10 years, Mary’s Shelter has provided room and board for mothers and their children, and provides educational opportunities to help the women get back on their feet. 

According to Sgt. Johnny Leach II, the firefighters got the idea for the program while they were sitting around the firehouse reflecting on how fortunate their own children are. They wanted to reach out to the community in a different way than when they respond to a call. 

Thanks to the efforts of the fire department, Fredericksburg businesses and the community — including contributions from several churches and schools — more than 85 women and children received presents and needed supplies.

It was one of several Christmas blessings the shelter has received this year. According to founder Kathleen Wilson, the organization recently received a generous donation from MacDoc Property Management in the form of a free, multi-year rental agreement for a business and residential property on Princess Ann Street.  

“We have since taken over these properties, which now gives us an amazing office space with rooms for our classes and babysitting, storage, women’s clothing closets and more,” said Wilson. “In addition, attached to the office building are two homes. These homes are a dream come true and will allow us to save funds to purchase our next home.”

One unit is being renovated into an apartment for a resident who is expecting twins in February. Volunteers helping to get the apartment ready were thrilled with a surprise donation of dressers, playpens and beds. 

Mary’s Shelter has started a respite program for single mothers working and living on their own who fall on tough times. The respite fund and their network of donors helps these women stay out of the cycle of homelessness while they work to build a life for themselves and their children. 

“It’s just been amazing,” said Wilson. “We could not keep these doors open without this community.”

The organization now has gained another ally in its mission. Sgt. Johnny Leach II and the fire department hope that Saturday’s event marks the beginning of a relationship that will continue throughout the year.  

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016