I am never one to shy away from helping strangers, and that is exactly what I did in October 2015. My three year old and I were at the State Fair of Texas on the toddler rides and I started watching a group of beautiful children and their caregivers. The kids seemed to be around my sons age and we ended up on several rides together. I was almost moved to tears when I saw the adult women with them, clapping, cheering and so joyous each time a child would come around on the mini rides, or how proud these ladies were when a child would conquer a fear and ride something they were scared of. There was a palpable love and respect between the children and caregivers that was almost magical. I was a total creeper and observed a little more. I could tell that this was a daycare or preschool group and had a hunch that they may be struggling financially. I had a little voice in my head tell me "Go over and offer to help them." And ignored it. I have no idea why I didnt do it, because I am embarassing at times with how much I go up to strangers that I have a hunch may need something. Anyway, I reasoned in my head that they must have plenty of money to be able to bring all these children to the fair and that I was being silly. This poor decision plagued me for A YEAR! I literally regretted this for a year and thought about it often. I didnt get any contact info, just watched and ignored what my gut was telling me.
Fast forward one year.... its October 2016 and my now 4 year old son and I are at the fair. He is the last kid in line for one of the little mini dragon roller coasters. Im standing their watching him and notice all the other kids on the ride have matching shirts, and then look to my left and literally standing next to me are the TWO LADIES who I watched take care of the children last year!!!! Thank you GOD!!!! I lost all decorum and ran right up to them and told them I watched them last year and was blown away by the care they gave the children and I had to meet them. What also struck me was the childrens manners, cleanliness and appearance. I have young children and have plenty of means to have them appear clean, tidy and polite and sometimes still fall short of that goal. This was a group of children from a disadvantaged area of Dallas and they looked and acted like a million bucks! The two ladies, who I now know as Mrs. Vanetta and Mrs. Lewis, were just as warm and kind as I imagined. Mrs. Vanetta started tearing up and said "we just cant believe someone noticed us." I learned about their school, Heavenly Care, and they are infact in a disadvantaged area of Dallas, many of the childrens parents cant even pay for the day care (so it comes out of Mrs. Vanettas pockets). Other things I learned, many of the children have no food at home, so the only meals they eat are at school. Many of the children do not have clean clothes or diapers so they come to school in soiled clothes which the staff washes and dries and IRONS so they can feel good and clean. Many of the children need baths, teeth brushed, hair brushed ( I have never seen more beautiful hair than on these children) so the staff at the school has toothbrushes, hair brushes etc. The staff serves them breakfast, lunch and snacks and a sweet lady named Mrs. Ruby makes everything from scratch basically. My son and the students were coming off the ride now and we were all just hugging and so glad we met each other. Again, I had one child who was well rested, well fed and he was misbehaving and these ten 4 year olds were waiting just as politely and patiently as can be. Saying "Yes maam", "No maam", "Please" and "Thank you" so well. I got all of their contact info, planning to give them a call later in the year to see how I could help, then I remembered I had some cash in my pocket. I never carry cash with me so this in itself was strange. I pulled it out thinking I had a $20, but it was actually a $50, and I asked if they would take it. Mrs. Vanetta and Mrs. Lewis started crying and told me that they were low on food this month and this is EXACTLY how much they needed. Thats God people!!! Like she mentioned earlier, some of these children are starving when they get to school so the thought of having to ration out the remaining food for the month was a scary one. Then I had to ask the obvious question, "How can you afford to bring all these children to the fair?" She told me the she and some of the other staff members collect Coke bottles throughout the year to offset the costs and then they save their OWN money to be able to bring the kids. Most, if not all of these children, would never be able to attend the Fair, and both these ladies think it is important to have something to look forward to and to just enjoy as a child. We were all crying at this point. We said our good byes and this sweet school has become a part of our family. We visit often bringing toys, clothes, money and just our time and we love these folks so much. My daughter and her friends like to go and read to the toddlers and I am not sure who gets more excited, the toddlers or my daughter :)
God gave me a second chance to do the right thing. In the entire city of Dallas at the State Fair of Texas, he placed my son on the last available seat with the Heavenly Care kids. So many variables had to be perfect for that to happen, but to God it was easy. He left it up to me to reach out to them.
Ive learned a lot about the school over this past year and feel even more passionate about their mission. Here are some of the things that stand out to me, and some of their needs.
- This year they are taking the kids to the fair on Oct 19th. I am bringing down plenty of Coke bottles for them to take and will also help with the admission if needed. They like to get each child a corn dog and drink so that all adds up and my goal is to have the Fair be free to them this year. This is my number one goal right now.
- Mrs. Lewis (pictured above) teaches the preschool (mostly 4 year old class.) I don't know a lot about a lot of things, but I was meticulous about picking a school for my children based on the learning methods and researched entirely too much on the subject. I am astounded at the methods Mrs. Lewis uses to teach these children math, phonics and colors. She uses a lot of Classical methods and does not even realize it. She is a gem. The children love and respect this woman so much. Most importantly, she instills a sense of accomplishment and confidence in her students that is desperately needed in the environment they are growing up in. They repeat to me that they are "special", "smart", "kind" and simply "good" each time I come. Mrs. Lewis could definitely use some additional teaching aids, craft supplies etc. She does amazing things with the bare bones supplies she has.
-Mrs. Ruby cooks all the meals. Praise be to God, they finally got approved for a state funded food plan so the food costs are now being offset by the program. This does not include the extra snacks that the teachers try to put in some kids backpacks for the weekend and evenings. Vanetta knows the kids that do not have food at home but sometimes has to take turns with who she gives food to because the supplies may be low.
- The roof is leaking terribly throughout the whole building. They hired a roofer several years ago and he stole the money and left them with no roof. Its patched up in places now but not adequately.
- Crime in the neighborhood is terrible and they have had all the ac units, the washers (which are so important), dryers, vent hood for the stove, TVs and microwaves all stolen. Mrs. Vanetta has had to board up windows to prevent robberies but they are only a slight deterance. She has paid for a new AC unit, washer and dryer but the microwave and TV cannot be replaced yet.
- They are in need of clothing. When the children or babies have accidents at school, they are left to wear a diaper the rest of the day or until their clothes can be washed and dried.
- The carpet in the whole building needs to be replaced (See leaking roof above.)
- They are in desperate need for someone to build some simple stairs out the back door for the kids. The stairs that are there now are falling in and the bottom step has fallen off so the children have to jump down because it is too high.
- Some additional tricycles, riding toys, climbers, see saws etc would be such a treat for the kids. Right now they have one climbing structure and some broken riding toys.
- They are in need of volunteers. Mostly from the hours of 1-4 (which I know is hard with our own children.) Some staff members go and pick up kids from other schools for after school care during these hours, so the volunteer time would mostly be sitting in the rooms where the babies and toddlers are napping.
I love this school and it has become such a part of our family and I want to help them in any way we can. I know this can be a tight time for everyone with Holidays coming up and specifically in Texas with the remnants of Hurricane Harvey so please dont feel bad if you cannot help. Even just a few dollars is helpful. If you have school age children who would like to read stories to the kids please contact me, if you have a contact with a carpenter or builder who may be able to help with the stairs please contact me.
Feel free to contact me at my email firstname.lastname@example.org to ask any questions or let me know how you may be willing to help.
Thank you all so much for reading my LONG entry!!!
For total transparency, I want to let everyone know that I am not an employee of Heavenly Care. The donated funds will be sent to my checking account and my husband and I are writing checks to the owner of Heavenly Care. We are working with them to allocate funds the most effectively for their needs (roofing, building maintenance, supplies for the children etc.) If anyone needs to see copies of checks made to the organization, please let me know.
UPDATE!!! We have been able to replace the toilet and plumbing in the toddlers roomwith the money raised in 2017!!!!
- Jaleesa Hatchett
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- Shelby Stapp