Here is the eyewitness account from the executive director of AADD, Kathy Keeley.
This week has been a long week - one with both joy and tension as AADD staff in teams of two and three delivered Christmas gifts to families on our caseload throughout the metro area. We had 79 families adopted this year through donations of volunteers, companies and small teams. They bought the gifts, wrapped and delivered the presents to the office where we organized and went out this week to deliver to all 79 families.
The joy is to see so many families delighted to see a bag of presents. Most have no Christmas trees or decorations in their homes/apartments so we bring the gifts all wrapped as their decorations. Volunteers were generous this year and we could fill a car with gifts for 4 or 5 families. We took the presents – bikes, clothes, toys, books, bedding, and food to the families. You can see the pictures on Facebook. We take a picture for the donor and we have the recipient(s) sign a thank you card since most cannot write themselves. Families range from a 65-year-old woman living alone to families with 8 to 10 children.
The tension comes from the stories we return to the office to share. We see the worst poverty, homes with no furniture, couches with no cushions, rats in the kitchen, mattresses on the floor with no bedding, and children in situations that concern us. We come back to the office very concerned all wanting to help or understand how people can live this way. We know we are lucky and gain appreciation for our own lives and families. It balances our holiday spirit to know we live differently.
Today was my delivery day and I saw 5 families in the Bankhead community – one in 5 houses is abandoned or squatters have moved in. I saw one family with 5 children – no heat and the oven open to heat the house. They have mattresses on the floor, garbage everywhere, and we had just missed a shooting between two gangs. Our client’s brother was shot in front of the children for whom we were delivering presents. I saw another family with a 22-year-old sitting on the couch in a dark house – she had aged out of high school and has no work. She has nothing to do all day. I saw another family that had just moved into their house – they had fresh paint and new floors but lacked furniture. Two daughters and a son – all young adults – are on our caseload. Another family is in an extended-stay motel. She is a long term client of AADD with 10 children. Her 14-year-old was going into labor – very premature and they were off to Grady. We are concerned for this family – several had significant intellectual disabilities.
Each day this week staff have returned with stories like mine. Each day we share and listen and try to sort out what we can do and not do.
The stories could go on…. We make a difference in people’s lives every single day. Also, we sometimes have to step back and let people suffer the consequences for some of the choices they make. We struggle each day with these choices given the challenge of poverty and an intellectual disability.
A crew is still here wrapping presents for another 5 families we discovered were missed. I am grateful to the staff for working as a team to get this all done. I can hear people now encouraging others to keep their holiday cheer as we head off for the weekend.
Happy Holidays! Thank you for all of your support.
AADD, All About Developmental Disabilities
125 Clairemont Avenue, Suite 300
Decatur, GA 30030
office. 404.881.9777 ext. 215