As a newly single mother of two children, Melissa needed help. Under financial and emotional strain, she struggled to stay afloat as she worked full-time and also tried to finish her collegedegree. “It was a very scary experience for me. I felt like I had failed as a mother, and that was very difficult to handle,” she said. “This was honestly one of the most pressure-filled timesin my life. I knew I had to stay in college to be able to provide my children with a better future and a strong role model.”

Her children’s school counselor connected Melissa to 360 Communities where she received help with holiday gifts and support from the food shelf.

She remembers how well volunteers treated her family when she visited the food shelf. Her son’s birthday was the next day and volunteers had a cake for him. “I don’t know how they made the connection it was his birthday, but it was a very special moment for him and myself. The volunteers go out of their way to make it a rewarding experience.”

Relief with Armful of Love

The kindness of Armful of Love volunteers also relieved her anxiety and stress. It was difficult for her to ask for help. When she arrived to pick up her gifts, a volunteer recognized her unease. She put her hand on her shoulder and said, “Don’t worry honey, your situation is temporary.”

“Those words truly made me feel like a person and not a charity case. Like she saw the value in me, and I remember how cheerful and genuine everyone was.”

Melissa and her children enjoyed Christmas and opening their gifts. The kindness of the volunteers and gift sponsors had a lasting impact on her. “It was the most special moment to know that someone took the time to shop for my family, wrap gifts and even provide a Christmas card. That moment I committed to giving back to the program when I was able. Since that day ten years ago when my family received gifts from a loving sponsor, I looked forward to this moment when I would be able to pay it forward,” said Melissa. This year, she and her family became Armful of Love gift sponsors.

“This has brought me full circle. And the chance to show another family that their ‘situation is just temporary’ and we are all in life’s journey together.”