Here’s how mothers at a 4-State shelter are putting presents under the tree this year

With the help of a Webb City Church, families at Washington Family Hope Center are having a holiday season to remember.

As Santa warms up the sleigh and we rush to do any last minute holiday shopping, we’re reminded that not everyone has an easy time making sure there are presents under the tree, let alone food on the table.

This would be the case for families living at Washington Family Hope Center, but fortunately, they’re surrounding themselves with a whole lot of love.

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“Women are not allowed to do whatever they want, so they have to follow the tradition. You are not free, you do not have that freedom so.

That’s what Marcela Pehot says life is like in the Republic of Congo, and what drove her to come to the United States.

“I moved here three years and six months ago,” she tells us. “I came here to study, but things just got worse. I didn’t have much time with my son. I was working day to night, and it was exhausting and I couldn’t do it anymore. I was looking for an apartment and I got the chance to have a room here.

The Washington Family Hope Center is in Downtown Joplin, which opened in June.

As part of Watered Gardens Ministries, it’s a shelter for mothers and their children, and it’s where Marcela and her son Akil have built a sense of community — not only with the other families, but with the community volunteers like those with Wellspring Church in Webb City, who only want the best for everyone this holiday season.

“Getting to know those families and establish those relationships, we actually had a family from our church approach me saying we need to do something to make sure that this Christmas is special for all the families here,” says Bekah Seward, the Church’s Director of Family Ministries. “No different than any of us or any other year, and in the year that really feels like we should hunker down and be safe, we wanted to continue serving and reaching out to our community.”

So they took all of the mothers holiday shopping.

Little did Akil and his friends know that while he and his friends were busy playing games at home, their moms were busy helping Santa.

“Some of the moms were looking for clothes, some of them were looking for electronics, all of them were looking for toys just to make this Christmas special,” recalls Seward. “One of them even got Kindle Fires so her children could read.”

“At Watered Gardens, everything we do is a reciprocal thing,” explains Matt Ingle, the Center’s Director. “We don’t just give handouts, everything is earned. So we were trying to think of ideas for how moms could earn this shopping experience.”

So the moms were given the task of decking the halls of their home with the holiday spirit.

Ingle sees the power in this.

“For them to be able to take that and use that as their ‘earn it,’ Ingle points out. “To be able to go shopping and buy gifts for their kids where they earn that. It’s not just somebody handing handing them money and them taking that. They’re earning that money, they’re earning that experience, and that provides dignity which we feel is very important to give to our clients here.”

Looking toward the future, Marcela is currently working to get into a nursing program.

While she’s grateful for what she and Akil have today, she looks forward to the day she can pay it forward.

“I know that they will do more for more women, and I just pray that one day, I’ll be able to help and donate like the other ladies donated for me.”

Click here to learn more about Watered Gardens and Washington Family Hope Center