Season of Wonder stories

“It’s tough to imagine being away from family this time of year, especially for children who are apart from their parents, which is a reality for the children who are enrolled at St. Vincent’s Villa in Timonium.

To help ease the stress of being apart for the holidays, St. Vincent’s Villa has put on a spectacular Christmas display in an unexpected place — the gym.

“We are at St. Vincent’s in the gym,” said Ezra Buchdahl, director at St. Vincent’s Villa.

A gym with thousands of ornaments, countless lights, and holiday cheer.

“A legion of bears, scores of presents, it’s just kind of a wonderland,” Buchdahl said while describing the display.

It’s all for the children who live at St. Vincent’s Villa while they receive emotional and behavioral support they can’t get at home.

“For some of the children, this the first time away from home for the holidays, so you can imagine how painful that is for them and their families,” Buchdahl said.

The children range in age from 5 to 14 years old.

“The kids are so special. It makes everyone so happy. It really does,” volunteer Jake Boone said.

So while the staff and army of volunteers know the special display won’t replace home, they do know it will brighten the children’s spirits. Volunteers say they see the positive effect it had every year.”

Read more and watch a video interview here.

Family is in danger of eviction due to non-payment of rent. They have no means to purchase school clothing. Client is intimidated in the school setting because she has been bullied for her appearance and has poor self-esteem about her learning ability.

With a Walmart gift card, the client’s family can purchase new clothing for school and help the client feel more inclined to attend and participate.

Villa Maria of Anne Arundel Co.

With a Walmart gift card, the client will be able to purchase school supplies and adequate clothing so she is able to continue to excel in school. Academics is one of the client’s greatest strengths but to continue to be successful, she needs to be properly equipped with necessary supplies. Success with academics is a confidence-builder for this client.

Villa Maria of Anne Arundel Co.

Client and her mother are brought to family sessions for Parent-Child Interaction Therapy by the grandmother. Grandmother and mother are currently unemployed and struggling to make ends meet. Grandmother has some health issues and mother takes care of her young son during the day. They have a handful of sessions left before they successfully graduate from PCIT but need assistance to be able to make it to the final appointments.

This family has worked very hard in therapy and a gas card would provide reliable transportation for client and her mother to graduate from the program.

Villa Maria of Anne Arundel Co.

Client reported to her doctor that she cannot afford her multiple medication prescriptions at this time.

A Visa gift card will help Client to be able to continue her medication regimen to maintain stability and enable her to engage effectively in therapy sessions.

Villa Maria of Anne Arundel Co.

Client’s family of four currently resides at Sarah’s House (a Catholic Charities program for women experiencing homelessness). Client’s single mother works full time but struggles to purchase clothes for the children.

A Kohl’s gift card will help Mom buy school uniforms and seasonably appropriate clothes for her children while she adjusts to the new transitional housing program and progresses in her treatment.

Villa Maria of Anne Arundel Co.

Client’s mother and grandmother continue to struggle financially as they attempt to repair their rundown home. Funds are tight as client’s grandmother is not working due to health issues and her mother does not work because she still has her young son at home.

A Shell Gas gift card will help the client and her mother complete the end of her Parent-Child Interaction Therapy sessions which have been very helpful for the whole family, according to client’s mother.

Villa Maria of Anne Arundel Co.

Client recently transitioned to home & hospital teaching and a relative who is his guardian is bringing him to the clinic weekly, as well as medication management appointments. Client’s relative and her partner are having financial difficulties and were about to be kicked out of their apartment. They had to cancel their last session because of not having gas in their car. 

A Shell Gas gift card will enable the family to get to the clinic to continue treatment while client is not in the school setting where he was previously receiving more convenient therapy services.

Villa Maria of Anne Arundel County

Client’s mom has recently broken a bone in her leg and is unable to work for 12 weeks.  Mom shared in session today that she is having difficulty providing enough food and is unsure of how she will be able to provide clothing for her son

A gift card for Walmart will build the client’s confidence knowing his mom is able to provide for him at home.  Client has had issues with school refusal in the past.  Any positivity we can provide for school (including well-fitting clothes) will assist in his attendance and participation.

Villa Maria of Anne Arundel County

Client’s home was destroyed in a fire and his family has been displaced. They lost everything and lack even food, clothing, toiletries, etc.

Walmart gift cards will allow the family to purchase basic necessities for the client that will help restore a normal routine which serves as a major foundation in allowing this client to cope with his ADHD. In addition, because of the extent of this event, we will begin doing trauma work and are grateful for any aid to help stabilize their life and minimize trauma symptoms as much as possible.

Villa Maria of Fallstaff

Client’s father recently experienced heart failure, in addition to other medical issues, rendering him unable to work. Client’s mother is working two jobs to support the family but is struggling to meet their daily needs. Family also lost disability funds furthering the financial hardship.

A Walmart gift card will be used to purchase seasonal clothing for the child, personal grooming items to improve hygiene, which has been a recent focus in treatment, as well as a journal for completing therapy assignments.

Villa Maria of Fallstaff

Client is 7 months pregnant with her fourth child and is suffering from pre-eclampsia and other complications. Her husband had a serious work injury and is now on disability and awaiting surgery.

A Walmart gift card will help this client obtain supplies for her children, including the newborn. She identifies her main goal as always being able to provide for her children, which aligns with her therapeutic goal of reducing anxiety and anger about the state of her family.

Villa Maria of Fallstaff

Client lives with her single mother who recently lost her job and, and although applying for work, has not secured employment. Client has many behaviors that are challenging on top of the stress of getting behind on bills. Mother worries she will run out of food before she’s able to get funds.

A Giant gift card will tide her and her family over as she searches for employment.

Villa Maria of Fallstaff

Client was left without warning to care for her four young grandchildren.  She has very little income and is waiting for her Kinship assistance to come through.  Meanwhile, she is short on everything: money, food, clothing, diapers.

Gift cards will help address the immediate stress of suddenly acquiring new dependents. Eventually, through our program, the client will be set up with cash assistance for expenses, but until the process is complete, gift cards can provide the essentials and increase the family stability, empowering the family to become effective caregivers to these children.

Kinship Navigators

Over the past few months, Client’s family has been having financial hardships and was recently evicted from its home. Client’s mother was able to find temporary housing, but is continuing to struggle financially.

A Walmart, Visa, or grocery store gift card — any additional support — will help stabilize this family in need. They will use the gift card to provide basic needs and help support the family’s transition into stable housing as they simultaneously pursue overall mental wellness.

Villa Maria of Fallstaff

Client struggles with anger toward his dad for the way he is treating him and his mom. The client’s father promised several times to help with food but has not followed through and will not return their calls. Client’s self-esteem and self-worth continues to decrease because his sibling resides with the dad and gets all his attention; he feels like the dad doesn’t want to be in his life.

A Giant gift card will help address anger the client has towards the mom for her not being able to provide for them. It will also help to continue the conversation about his self-esteem with his counselor.

In-Home Intervention

Client is a grandmother who is suddenly responsible for raising her daughter’s 8-month-old twins. She has to wait for some documentation in order to get WIC, so she needs gift cards to help her with formula, food and other needs for the babies.

A Walmart gift card will help her get started as a Kinship Caregiver. Often in the beginning, before the financial assistance from DSS is secured, families need help, especially if the child/children are given to them without clothes, food, or supplies.

Kinship Navigators

Client’s family is on a fixed and very limited income and at times cannot afford basic necessities such as food, feminine hygiene products, and seasonably appropriate clothing.

A Walmart gift card will help the client to provide essential items for herself during times when her parents can’t meet her needs, which would reduce the amount of time she spends out of school each month and would increase her focus by addressing hunger issues.

Villa Maria of Fallstaff

The family has recently been paying for transportation to and from the hospital out of a very tight budget.

A gift card for gasoline would help the familiy continue to  engage in family therapy while also getting to and from the hospital during a challenging time.

Villa Maria of Fallstaff

Client has experienced a recent loss of income because he has to appeal his workman’s compensation case after a workplace injury. His court date is next month. He struggles to provide necessities for his three children.

A Walmart gift card will help the family stock up on household, hygiene, and food needs instead of operating from behind. Meeting some of the basic needs of the client and his family will assist with increased family functioning and focus on therapy goals.

Villa Maria of Towson

Client is in a workforce development program and working toward employment goals at this time. Her husband left two months ago after a history of domestic violence. He does not provide financial support to her or their four children at this time.

A Walmart gift card will allow the client to purchase groceries and other needed items for her children, while working in therapy to alleviate the symptoms of PTSD as a result of chronic homelessness and trauma.

Villa Maria of Towson

Client is being raised by his grandmother, who recently lost her job.

A Visa gift card will reduce the stressors facing this family, allowing them more energy to focus on the emotional and behavioral concerns that we are addressing in treatment.

Villa Maria School

Client has been going on Therapeutic Leave with his mother who identifies difficulty in providing food and other necessary items for her child due to her Temporary Cash Assistance not being activated. Mother has recently moved from a shelter with her daughter into their own home (provided by anotehr Catholic Charities program) and is in need of assistance.

A Walmart gift card will help the mother meet her children’s basic needs, including nutrious food, so home visits can continue and the family can be successful in their new home.

St. Vincent’s Villa

While the client was in the hospital, her husband took off from work to care for the children. He was fired (small company, no FMLA). Then the day the client was discharged, the family car was totaled while parked. The family has depleted their savings to purchase a car from charity.

A Walmart gift card will help alleviate some stress, which is a primary trigger to parental aggression. By helping the client to purchase seasonal clothing for her children, the family can focus financial resources on rent and utilities.

Villa Maria of Towson

Client’s family has been hit with unexpected expenses and is low on available funds. His parents are planning to shorten their home visits in order to address the grocery expenses.

 A Giant gift card will allow the family to continue home visits which are paramount in preparing the client for discharge from the Residential Treatment Center.

 St. Vincent’s Villa

Client’s electricity has been turned off due to non-payment. She is working with the fuel fund to restore services, but she lost all of the food in her refrigerator.

 Client has been attending therapy regularly but is now experiencing higher levels of distress because of her limited resources and the recent financial loss. A grocery store gift card will help the client to reestablish the food supply for her and her children and stay committed to therapy.

Villa Maria of Towson

Client has upcoming school concert, but does not have the necessary attire. We were able to acquire a dress for the student, but could not supply the shoes. Mom is unable to provide at this time, as they have had a few evictions over the past few years.

A Walmart gift card will boost the client’s confidence so she feels good about herself on an important day. Client’s confidence and esteem are severely impacted by the family’s financial situation.

Villa Maria School

Client is now living on his own but has had a difficult transition financially. He gets disability but his grandmother is the recipient and doesn’t give him the money to use to support himself. He worries about paying for groceries or when he needs any new clothing.

 A Walmart gift card will help with basic needs, food or clothes that he struggles to get on a day to day or regular basis. In therapy, it will be a good exercise for him to practice budgeting for what he needs and how to spend it responsibly.

 Villa Maria of Towson

Client’s aunt must buy extra groceries on the weekends when her niece is home from residential treatment. This places additional financial stress on the family which already does not have reliable transportation and jeopardizes the continuation of home visits.

A Walmart gift card will allow the family to purchase groceries close enough to home to walk or easily get a ride from a neighbor. With sufficient food, home visits can continue, which will assist in ongoing treatment and discharge planning.

 St. Vincent’s Villa

Clients father has been incarcerated and family members are caring for her, though they are struggling themselves. The family has no access to the client’s belongings.

A Walmart gift card will help the family provide clothing and needed items for the child as they try to keep the child out of foster care, which would add additional trauma to a client who has already been exposed to a lot.

Villa Maria School

Client’s parent contacted us about food pantries and assistance programs. Parent disclosed that one source of income was lost and as a result the family is running out of food. Parent anticipates that is may be 2-3 weeks before anything comes in.

A Walmart or grocery store gift card will allow the family to purchase suffient food to utilize the Home-Based Respite Program effectively. We exist to allow the parent to take a break from the demanding responsibilities of caring for a child with behavioral health needs. If the parent is constantly worrying about providing food, then the respite time is not refreshing, it’s actually a stressful, worrying time.

Home-Based Respite

Client and her two children (also clients) have been homeless for four months, living in a shelter. Mom is experiencing difficulty finding a suitale place to move and has worked with multiple placement agencies to no avail.

A Walmart gift card will ease some of the financial stress for Mom as she continues to seek safe, stable housing for herself and her two children.

Villa Maria of Towson

Client and her family are currently living out of a hotel room due to a recent eviction. The weekly rate is high and the family is utilizing a lot of its resources to pay for the room and prepared food since they have no means of cooking.

A groccery store gift card will help the family to pay for food and allow them to make more financial progress toward identifying sustainable housing.

Villa Maria of Lansdowne

Cilent has been struggling with an ongoing conflict with his ex. Last month, he planned suicide, but thankfully, checked himself into the hospital was recently released. Ex has stolen all of his money: three months ago, his bills were paid with extra money in the bank; now, he has $1.50 to his name until payday. His job is at a distance from the clinic and other appointments, so he won’t have enough gas keep his appointments. He has been living out of his car for the past week. 

A gas and Walmart gift card will allow the client to continue the treatment that he is receiving from Villa Maria, and to make it to his job, demonstrating that there are people who care about him during this very difficult time. He has been applying for help at different agencies and the assistance will help him bridge the gap until they begin.

Villa Maria of Carroll County

Client lost his mother at a young age. His father works hard to raise the client and his sister on his own. However, Dad lost his job recently and is struggling to find employment, therefore, he is having difficulty managing finances for the family. Client has a history of anxiety and difficulty separating from his Dad. He is interested in starting a school sport.

A Visa gift card can help the client to enroll in a school sport in order to practice independence from Dad. Also, it will help to reduce his anxiety by increasing self-esteem and physical fitness.

Villa Maria of Harford County

Client’s mother has recently separated from the father.  She is currently not working and does not receive financial support. Client is working through issues with school bullying and reluctance to participate at school.

A Walmart or Target gift card would build self-confidence and reduce bullying at school, as children are often ridiculed for not wearing the right clothes.

Villa Maria of Harford County

Client’s family is struggling financially and his mother has health issues and dental problems. Mom is having difficulty supervising her son when she is not feeling well and he has begun getting in neighborhood fights. He is also having difficulty sleeping at night due to his hyperactivity.

A Visa gift card could help the client participate in a structured activity such as a sport, activity, camp, or club for added supervision and exercise. Mom is motivated, but cannot afford the cost.

Villa Maria of Harford County

Client’s mother will be admitted for serious surgery this month. Mother is unable to work due to her current condition, and child support is irregular. The family has limited resources for food with mounting hospital bills. Client has behavioral issues at home which have been challenging for his mother to handle consistently due to the medical issues she is experiencing.

Grocery store gift cards will help the client feel secure and provided for at home and will alleviate some of Mom’s stress related to providing for his basic needs, allowing her to follow through on his chore chart, rewards, and consequences.

Villa Maria of Harford County

Client’s mother cannot work due to her son’s behavioral health needs. Father works construction and struggles to make ends meet. Their food stamps don’t provide adequate food for the family.

A Visa and a Giant gift card will allow the family to supplement its diet with more, nutritious options and will also help them purchase two books that were recommended by the therapist to help the family meet its therapeutic goals.

Villa Maria of Harford County

Client needs to voluntarily admit herself to a hospital for clinical care. Before she can do so, she must get her young son to her mother’s house out of state so she can care for him in the client’s absence. The client is doing poorly.

A Shell and Visa gift card will allow the client to situate her son and then pay for train and cab fare immediately prior to and after her hospitalization. These tangible steps will help her get the inpatient care she needs to address her acute mental health needs.

Villa Maria of Harford County

Single mother of client is working two jobs. She is trying to save in order to move out of the grandmother’s home where there is a lot of conflict. Client is being bullied in the neighborhood and it is difficult for Mom to supervise him at all times. After work, she needs to do homework with client late at night.

A Visa gift card will allow the client to participate in a karate after-school program where he will have supervision and homework help. Karate will also benefit him by teaching impulse control, self-discipline, respect for adults, and practice in following instructions. Mom hopes he will also make friends.

Villa Maria of Harford County

Client’s mother reports having difficulty purchasing enough food for the family since going on disability. Summertime and holidays are particularly difficult since my client does not receive breakfast and lunch at school.

A grocery store gift card will help provide adequate nutritian for the client while helping address behavioral health issues.

Villa Maria of Harford County

Client’s family is in the middle of a career change and trying to recover from a period without income.

A grocery store gift card (Save A Lot or Aldi preferred) will help relieve the stressthe client is under and allow her to buy food for the family. Under less family stress, the client can continue to practice her coping skills and focus on self-care.

Villa Maria of Harford County

The family struggles making ends meet and paying for basic needs including gas, groceries, medical needs, rent, and household utilities. The regularly work hard to ensure they obtain their needs, including going to churches and assistance programs, but have had difficulty with minimal income.

A Visa gift card will promote their ability to attend their regular therapy appointments, stay healthy, and minimize the financial stressors that negatively affect their living situation and distrupt their support system.

Villa Maria of Harford County

Client lost her job and is actively in searching for emplyment. She currently has no income, no financial support, and very little support of any kind — while caring for two children. She needs to buy gas to get to job interviews.

A gas or grocery gift card will provide the feeling of support as she strives to provide for her children. This will help alleviate some anxiety and some of the sadness she is dealing with in therapy.

Villa Maria of Harford County

One mother said that if not for gift certificates provided by donors she would she was going to have to turn to prostitution to make sure that her children had something when they woke up on Christmas morning. One grandfather who had his grandchildren but wasn’t receiving any benefits for them because the mother is an avid drug user and doesn’t help him, would not have been able to get his grandchildren anything for Christmas without the help of the gift certificates.

Safe Streets

Client was recently inpatient at substance use rehabilitiation and returned to a living situation which was not condusive to ongoing sobriety. He is applying to a halfway house and will be relocating to maintain his recovery.

A Walmart or Visa gift card will help the client meet the copay on medications which are parmount for his ongoing mental health treatment.

Villa Maria of Hagerstown

“While things might have been different 25 years ago, [Lamont] Medley isn’t there to be part of the trouble. He’s there to stop it. He works for the nonprofit organization Safe Streets and hopes his presence, in his “Stop shooting. Start living.” T-shirt, will help bring calm. If Joe calls, Medley will try to help him find a job — and a chance.

Joe knows Safe Streets. He nods toward Medley. “I love these men,” he says. “They was us before.””

From a July 2016 profile of Safe Streets in The Washington Post. Read more here.