Holiday Happiness For All
For most of us, the holiday season is one of the busiest yet happiest times of the
year, a time for planning family get togethers, decorating our homes and tackling
our gift lists. But domestic abuse is not a seasonal issue, and the shelters at
DVS are often overwhelmed with even more new residents, especially at this time
Many people have been compassionately drawn to help DVS over the holidays, with
at least four parallel volunteer groups striving to ensure that all the families
at the DVS shelters experience some joy over the holiday season. Members of the
annual Springtime Committee, The Secret Sisters, The 3 Wishes Candy Cane program
and The Unitarian Society have provided everything from Christmas trees and decorations
to gifts and holiday meals to shelter families.
Co-President Claudette Roehrig was first introduced to the needs and programs of
DVS five years ago when Board Member Kathy Borgers explained DVS’ mission. Claudette
was so touched, she immediately launched The 3 Wishes Candy Cane program. All the
children at the shelters were asked which three things they wanted for Christmas.
Claudette attached one wish per candy cane with the child’s first name, gender and
age and distributed them in three different places she visited most often – her
gym, her hair salon and her horse boarding facility.
The participants put the candy cane on their wrapped presents, and Claudette and
her family made sure the gifts were delivered to the shelters. This program was
received most generously by the participants, and it has become a special annual
event for Claudette and her family who now look forward to helping in this way every
year. The Roehrig family and the many enthusiastic participants have provided amazing
gifts including bikes, clothes, dolls, and IPods.
Another ongoing program was started by former Board Member Sally Hamilton who for
many years has coordinated gift giving with her church, The Unitarian Society. Each
year she asks Bonny for individual gift wishes for women and children and gets the
word out for others to buy, wrap and deliver the gifts to the shelter the Sunday
before Christmas. Last year Sally delivered nearly 80 gifts!!
Longtime Springtime and Emeritus Board member Susannah Rake rallied fellow Springtime
committee members to arrange for local Christmas tree lot owners to, at first, offer
discounts or donate Christmas trees to the shelters. For the past four years, and
currently, the local Prudential California Realty offices have generously embraced
the Christmas tree donation program.
Other Springtime members including Laurie Tilson and her Special Sisters provided
decorations, holiday meals and personally selected gifts.
It is Claudette’s belief that people want to give and these programs make it easy
and possible. Many participants have felt a connection to a child or family even
though they have never met. Sometimes people pick a family who resembles their own
– a boy and a girl who might be about the same age as their own children. It has
been extremely rewarding and challenging for all involved to make sure every wish
is granted, since there can be up to 21 families housed at the shelters in Santa
Barbara at any one time, and last minute check-ins are common during the stressful
The Lompoc and Santa Maria shelters house an additional 20 families, and they too
would greatly benefit from our generosity.