They Are Giving Through Work

Sometimes I think I’m a bit of an odd duck. I’ll happily admit that. When I meet people, I think about their lives and stories and the take-aways.

Not all the time, but frequently. I had this feeling when I met Lucy and Elizabeth. I wanted to know more about the ladies who helped me get a grasp on my new normal.

The Sheriff and Supergirl costumes you see are so fitting for who they are when showing up for work. Lucy is the Executive Director of Focus + Fragile Kids. Elizabeth is a program coordinator. The Focus + Fragile Kids tagline is Comfort. Hope. Fun.

I see Focus + Fragile Kids as an organization that has breathed a new life into our definition of special needs living. There is a team of 10 people and hundreds of volunteers who support special needs parents in every aspect of their lives from workshops to fun family outings and events in the metro-Atlanta area.

10 people doing a marvelous work. I’ve worked for corporations who couldn’t pull off the feats that Focus + Fragile Kids does.

You see, they affect so many lives by being there to help special needs parents navigate their challenging and unexpected worlds.

Imagine changing lives just by walking in to work. I think that is pretty darn cool!

You serve over 4,500 families in what you do, how does it happen?

Lucy: “I’ve been the Executive Director for 20+ years and I started out as the program director. Now, my job is to provide online parent support-the initial intake when new families come to us. I do more fundraising—meeting with donors and handling social media. I think about the future and how to make us sustainable.”

Elizabeth: “I’m the comfort, hope and fun coordinator! I create and develop events and programs for families. I build relationships through share groups, bereavement groups, and hospital visits. I’ve been doing this for 10 years and I’m always looking around the corner for something new to help where needed.”

Everyone knows that working for a non-profit pays well (big giggle of sarcasm). So really, why do you do this?

Lucy: “There’s nothing better we can do than coming alongside a family to support them. Having that opportunity to give them encouragement is phenomenal.”

Elizabeth: “I love what I do. There’s nothing more satisfying than helping people feel loved, wanted and needed.”

There are always obstacles when you’re trying to do something good. What gets in your way?

Lucy: “Liability—the goal is to run a program where children are happy and safe. When training our volunteers, we prepare them. We have plans for everything—rules. And, it’s hard to have a balanced life in the non-profit world. It can be hard to disassociate from the pain and difficulties. You can’t save the world, but the world will appreciate your effort.”

Elizabeth: “When I started the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) support group I could see myself in those parents. It was hard and scary. But now, I can be there to smile and lift those families up. Being there is no longer a trigger in remembering the loss of my daughter, Kathryn. I can’t make things better for our families. But, I give them memories. People see hope.”

And there you have it—the idea of seeing hope. Isn’t that what we all need at one time or another? This lifeline of hope that is now Focus + Fragile Kids grew from two couples whose children shared a hospital room.

Those four parents became friends and got help from doctors and nurses for support. From there things blossomed.

Because four people had a vision, my daughter attends a camp designed with her needs in mind. When our family attends Focus + Fragile Kids’ events it’s as if they’ve thought through every little detail to make the experience accessible and easy for us to enjoy.

I’ve always marveled at those who decide that their life’s work is about helping others in some unique way.

I don’t expect this post to make you run out to get a new job. This type of giving through work is not my calling and it may not be yours. But…

My intention is always to leave little drops of inspiration that lead to something—that my simple words spark a call to action of some sort.

Comfort. Hope. Fun. Even if it’s not in your work, we can all take a cue from Lucy and Elizabeth to spread a little bit of that to others in our own way. Will you?

The Must-Hear Christmas Playlist

Nothing says holiday spirit like two cute kids smiling near a Christmas tree. This time last week, there was a big chill in the air and a MOUNTAIN OF SNOW (okay inches) that kicked my Christmas spirit into high gear. I think that kinda counts as a white Christmas.

What, you say you’re not there yet? Then check out my brand-new You Tube channel and my first ever playlist! Yes, I know there are 8-year olds with You Tube channels. This is a big deal for me, so work with me on the excitement!

I’m sharing Christmas favorites that I can’t go without during this festive season. You’ll find old classics and new ones that will make you smile, relax and appreciate this season of gifts and giving.

Here’s Jessa in her debut performance of a new classic. The original “Noel” is sung by the award- winning Christian artist, Lauren Daigle. 

It’s a close tie as to who sings it best. I’ll let you judge for yourself.

Service is a Gift

As the holiday season gets in full swing, I get excited for this time of sharing, giving and receiving. It got me to thinking not about tangible gifts, but about those precious ones like the gift of time.

Our circle is full of people who give to us so generously, but also give to others around them. I thought I’d spend December talking to friends who give their time through work and service in the community. It’s my way of showing the difference that giving makes not just during the holidays, but all year long.

This week, my focus is on my friend Celeste and her 17-year-old daughter Chappell who serve as small group leaders in the baby’s room (Waumba Land) at our church.

Tell me about serving in Waumba Land? “We serve in the crawlers room with the babies each week. We have about 8 babies each week. Our job is to take care of the babies while their parents are in church. Then, we sanitize the toys, change sheets, etc. to get things ready for the next church service. Our group stays with us from the time they crawl until they walk.”

And what’s the commitment? “They ask for a two-year commitment when you volunteer. Every Sunday (unless I have a serious conflict) Chappell and I are up at 6 am so we can be at church by 8:30 am.”

I know I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t serve in this way. What prompted you to do this? “We were sitting in church one Sunday and Andy (Pastor Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church) was talking about giving back; encouraging people to be generous with their time.

I whispered to Chappell ‘How would you like to do Waumba Land?’ We’ve been doing this for about 14 months now. We went through an extensive process that included an application, interview, training and an apprenticeship. Chappell has been through all the programs at church since she was little. Now, she’s giving back.”

There’s always a challenge when you serve others. What is that for you? “Some Sundays we have a ball. Some Sundays we want to take a nap because we are up early and it gets busy in the nursery. I think it’s a reminder to me and Chappell. God asks us to do things we may not want to do or have the patience for. He will provide the way and tools we need.”

What’s the big take-away? What’s the big deal about volunteering? “Chappell and I had  conversations about doing something bigger than what we were doing—not just focusing on ourselves. We give parents a break for an hour and I know that helps them. Service really does matter.”

Yes, service does matter. I’ve been on the receiving end of volunteers like Celeste and Chappell since my girls were very little; and even now. Sometimes, that hour in church was the only break we had from caretaking over a tiring weekend. I love that my friend enjoys serving in this way. I love babies, but this couldn’t be my thing.

Time is tight and precious for all of us, but I also believe a little bit of sacrifice will go a long way. Do you have a thing? Is there service in you?

As you shop, eat and enjoy holiday happenings, see if there is a nudging somewhere in your heart. Not just to give physical gifts, but your time too. It will be a gift to others that can be enjoyed all year long.

And it will certainly be one that no one will have to take back to the store to exchange for something better.