Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
As COVID-19 came into our nation, havoc came right along with it. One of the hardest things for so many children and families was that schools across the nation were forced to close. For children in our shelter, this was a very difficult time. Children staying home from school meant there were no more friends to play with, no more socializing outside the home; there were also no more IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) and there were no more school counselors. School is the only time for most of our children to actually feel like they have a normal life. For our staff, things became very difficult. Not only did they have to provide the safe environment these children need but we also had to become teachers and guidance counselors. Our children have built a community for themselves including teachers, pastors, friends, and volunteers. When they didn’t have parents to go to when they faced a troubling time, they had this community of love surrounding them. When the pandemic began, some of that community seemed to disappear in the eyes of our children. They felt even more alone and scared than they have ever felt before. As a community they had to start to get creative.
“Kim” came into care a few years back and came with many challenges including learning disabilities. Thankfully, the past years have been wonderful! She has been reunited with her three brothers - and she and her two younger brothers even got baptized together. When the pandemic started, it hit Kim very hard. Her behavior challenges seemed to come back as well as having to learn how to navigate her last year of elementary school virtually. Everyone has a special place in their heart for Kim. She had many volunteers that spent one-on-one time with her, and we thank God that she always seemed to have a heart to share her burdens with. So, when quarantine came around, those visits ended leaving Kim feel unloved and alone. She began acting out and having feelings of unworthiness. As school continued, staff was able to provide the support she needed and sat with her each day to make sure she was not only very important and cared for but that she would feel secure in her education.
Kim finished the school year very strong. She ended her elementary years with "A" honor roll status. She had overcome her challenges and proved she has the determination needed to rise about tough circumstances. We were all so proud of Kim and could not wait to celebrate with her at her graduation ceremony. So, you could only imagine how our hearts broke when we found out there would be no celebration, there would be no one to exclaim congratulations to her!
But what we have learned during the COVID-19 crisis is that we don't have to act as if the world has stopped, we just need to get creative! It was only natural to decide to have a surprise graduation for Kim. With a few emails, calls, and social media posts the parade was set. It was led by the Leesburg Fire Department with three trucks sirens and all. The turnout included volunteers, teachers from Kim’s school, pastors, and even people who had yet to meet Kim but heard about this wonderful opportunity to show love to a child in need. Cars were decorated with balloons, cars, and candy. The excitement on her face proved to us the love Kim felt! Traffic was stopped as cars lined several blocks to celebrate this child who proved what it looks like to be an overcomer!
If you would like to find ways to connect with our Children’s Shelter please email Jamie.Scher@fbchomes.org.