Try to envision nine teenage girls sitting around a small dining room table, sharing stories, and giggling as they discussed their plans for Christmas. Sounds like a typical scene right? Well, this dinner was anything but typical.
You see, the setting was a shelter on Long Island for teen girls known as Madonna Heights and these girls had never met. Five juniors from Smithtown High School had come to deliver Christmas gifts and share a meal with girls who were less fortunate than they were. They were on a mission to bring joy, and that they did.
The story began when The Dozen Divas from Smithtown East and Connect Four from Smithtown West first reached out to Madonna Heights with an intention to do something special for the girls living in the home. Massive donations of brand new clothes from the successful PROUDgirl and Old Navy fashion shows a few weeks back, allowed Christmas to come early this year.
[Photo by: Carla Alpert And Diane Prefontaine]
PGOM brought well over 70 individually wrapped gifts, which took about 10 people and five trips back and forth from the car to bring all the gifts inside Madonna Heights. The PROUDgirls also brought the dinner they made along with home-baked cupcakes, brownies and cookies for dessert. They didn't miss a beat.
On the drive over to the shelter last Monday night, the girls were apprehensive not knowing what to expect. It was an unfamiliar neighborhood and the girls they were about to meet were from a completely different world. Or were they? Would the girls be open to their visit? Would they get along? How would they strike a compassionate balance knowing they are so privileged compared to the girls living there? This was yet to be determined.
Linsday, the Project Manager for this PROUDgive shared, "on my first trip there, I was nervous on how the girls would react to younger girls from another community coming into their home and intruding in their lives. I was afraid they might not appreciate us and want our help... but it turns out they were appreciative beyond belief... which was a great feeling."
Although the reasons why the girls lived in this shelter were never disclosed or discussed, we were aware that some of these teens had witnessed extreme acts of violence in their homes, witnessed family members using drugs on a regular basis, had endured sexual abuse and been neglected. It opened our eyes to a world we had never known.
As the night unfolded, it became clear that the two groups of girls from different worlds were in fact the same. They had the same interests, they each aspired to go to college, they found the same things humorous and they truly respected one another regardless of their circumstances. As Ashley from Dozen Diva's put it, "Having a conversation with them was so easy because we have so many things in common like sports, books that we are reading in school, what we want to be when we grow up and just simply going to the beach."
Looking back on that Monday night, it's clear what an impact each group can make on another. The Madonna Heights girls were so overwhelmed with joy and excitement; it was impossible not to feel such a sense of the same.
"Bringing the items to the girls at Madonna Heights and seeing their faces, was a totally unique experience. I never knew how much the girls would appreciate this. I took only a few hours from my day to help and I wouldn't take it back. It felt good to help, but it felt even better being able to see the girls' reactions when they saw how many things we had brought them," one girl said.
That night on December 13, sitting around that dining room filled with warmth and conversation the girls learned that not everyone had plans on Christmas and that some girls from the shelter would spend their holiday there.
When you set your mind to something and then act upon it, amazing things occur. There is still time to follow the lead of these unbelievable teenage girls this holiday season. Set out to give with intention and give it everything you have.