by John Kelly, columnist
The Washington Post
January 14, 2015
On Dec. 9, I wrote a column about a little girl named Destiny who had been given $15 to spend on each of her family members for Christmas. Destiny’s family had hit a rough patch — her mother had briefly been homeless — but after entering a program run by a Northern Virginia charity called Homestretch, things were turning around.
Destiny was so focused on what gifts to get for her parents and two brothers that I had to pull from her what she wanted for herself: an American Girl doll.
The day my column ran, a half-dozen readers offered to purchase the $115 doll. I thanked them all and put the first e mailer in touch with Homestretch.
Later, Destiny’s mom sent me an e-mail thanking all of the generous donors: “Regarding all the people who called wanting to get it for her, I hope that maybe they still donated to the organization. I am not sure, but she got it and was beyond happy Christmas morning.”
And I’m beyond happy to announce that The Washington Post’s inaugural Helping Hand fundraising drive raised $213,262.82 for three local charities: Homestretch, Community of Hope and Sasha Bruce Youthwork. We comfortably surpassed our goal of $200,000. The money will allow the charities to provide services to more homeless families and teens.
Readers have a natural desire to help specific people, and while it isn’t always possible to link specific donations with specific people, I wanted to share two more stories.
Kiara Williams is one of 12 children who lived with her mother in the family shelter at the old D.C. General Hospital. With the help of Community of Hope, she overcome incredible hardships to attend Delaware State University, where she is a freshman. A local pediatrician read my column about her and offered to serve as a mentor.
A formerly homeless woman donated $100 to Community of Hope. “She’s back on her feet now and felt it was important to give back to help others who are in the place that she once was,” wrote Community of Hope’s Karis Erwin in an e-mail.
If, in the future, I should hear someone suggest that Washingtonians are unfriendly or aloof — that Washington is a cold, unfeeling city — I will think of those Post readers who participated in Helping Hand. They’re proof that plenty of people in our town are willing to help strangers.
Thank you to all of the clients who allowed me to share the stories of their sometimes difficult pasts. And thank you to all of the Post readers whose donations will allow for brighter futures.
This article originally appeared in The Washington Post on January 14, 2015