Holiday Lights Shine
BIDMC's Holiday Lights gift-giving program helps needy children and families enjoy the holidays by providing presents and grocery store gift certificates. Caregivers from Bowdoin Street Health Center identify families in need, and work with each family to develop a gift "wish list."
"Every little bit helps, especially in this economy," said Lakesha Allen, who together with her three children, Lajuan, 12; Anthony, 6; and KeMani, 81/2 months, have been sponsored by BIDMC staff this year. "I know that this year it's really going to help my kids a lot because it's hard out there."
Last year, BIDMC employees and board members provided gifts to nearly 200 families. This year, the number of families requesting assistance has grown to 275. Families range in size from two to 11, so there are easily more than 1,000 participants, said Carmen Mejia, an administrative associate at Bowdoin Street Health Center who is organizing this year's drive.
"This year's economy is a lot tougher," said Mejia. "We're lucky we still have so many people willing to sponsor. The families really appreciate it too - you can see it in their faces when they come in to pick up the gifts."
The Allen family has been coming to Bowdoin Street since 2005, and has found the services especially helpful since little KeMani was born with serious heart and bronchial problems requiring hospitalization three times. "This place really is a Godsend," said Lakesha, who praised the many staff she and her sons have come in contact with, including primary care doctors, nurses, family advocates and front desk staff.
Asked what he likes best about Bowdoin Street, Lajuan thinks for a moment and smiles before saying, "I love the cooking classes. I learned to make tacos!" In addition to services what you might expect to find at most health care centers, Bowdoin Street offers many additional programs for families and children, including nutritional cooking classes.
Despite a great initial response from BIDMC staff, there are still more than 50 families in need of sponsors, said Mejia.
"This is an excellent group activity for departments and is greatly appreciated by our patients," said Bowdoin Street Director Adela Margules. "Given the economic challenges many families face including increased heating costs, concerns about housing costs, and continuing high unemployment rates in our health center neighborhoods, your contribution this year is more important than ever."
If you are interested in purchasing "wish-list" gifts for health center patients, please contact Mejia for instructions on being matched with a family. She can be reached directly at (617) 754-0097, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org).