Written by Jill Nossa Wednesday, 11 December 2013 00:00
This is the season of giving, when people tend to think more about the needs of others. One particular organization in the community is devoted to giving to others throughout the year, though they do appreciate and rely on the generosity of others during the holidays. The Guardian Angel Family Crisis Center in Sea Cliff is devoted to helping women and children on a daily basis, and the needs of those they serve often become amplified this time of year.
Last month, the center extended its thrift store space and opened a holiday boutique, where children’s toys and clothing are displayed for purchase, as well as holiday decorations. Women's clothing is also for sale, and the space now has a dressing room. A special aspect of this holiday boutique is the Giving Tree, where those who wish to purchase a gift for a child in need can take a name from the tree to ensure the child’s Christmas wish is fulfilled.
Founder Barbara Costello runs the place and is clearly committed to her job - a job that, like a mother’s, is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She develops a bond with each of the women and children in crisis who she helps through the program, and is personally there for them to babysit, give a ride or bring food in emergency situations.
“We help them, but they have to help themselves...they have to do the work but when you’re in crisis, it’s tough, you need support. Nobody can do it alone.” She strives to give the women the tools to be self-sufficient and she also stresses the importance of community support.
The mission of Guardian Angel, founded in 2004, is to help women and children overcome weaknesses and nurture their strengths, helping them to become “vital members of the community.” Costello and the board have strict criteria for those they help, and part of their service is the thrift store where families can find clothing, toys and other necessities for their children. The organization goes beyond giving just the essentials, though, and offers medical care and helps provide shelter, when necessary.
She feels its important to have local support on a personal level, and has numerous volunteers from the community who help with the families.
“A lot of people want to give but they don’t know how. I ask them what their passion is and what they think they could bring to the table...everybody has a gift.” Somehow, she says, things work out. A lot of people know that they can donate gently used clothing, toys and baby gear to the shop and sometimes they want to give more.
“It’s about helping your community. You might think, I want to help my neighbor but I don’t know what my neighbor needs, so I’ll give it to Barbara and she’ll figure it out,” notes Costello.
While of course she looks ahead, Costello says she mainly goes on a day by day basis of assessing needs.
“Every morning I pray that I will have the resources to fulfill the needs for whatever comes up that day,” she says. It might mean stepping in to babysit if the sitter is sick, or driving a woman in labor to the hospital.
“Things come up, and I’m there for them.”
One thing Costello says she would like to see this season is more “open hearts” in the community; a volunteer shared a story of how a stranger helped her pay for her groceries in a pinch, without passing judgment or asking questions.
“The situation could've went the other way, but that person had an open heart,” says Costello. “I’d love to see more of that.”
To learn how you can help visit www.gafcc.org.