Omaha, Neb. (WOWT) — For 68 birthdays, the Open Door Mission has found a way.
“There is always room at the table for someone else.”
Open Door Mission President and CEO Candace Gregory is already preparing for the upcoming severe weather. The shelter is at capacity, but they’ve rolled out mats to handle when the expected overpopulation comes in from the storm.
This year, and preparing for this year’s Christmas, has been tough. Donations are dropping and the need is increasing. Those who live on the margins feel the bloat and higher gas prices more than most. Christmas gifts, even holiday meals, can feel like a luxury. This is where the Open Door mission, shelters, and other subway help centers come into play.
“Whether it’s Christmas or Hanukkah or an upcoming birthday, we know if we can support them so that they can use their income to keep the heat and lights on, put gas in their car to go to work, and put food on their table,” said Gregory. “And that’s what we’re trying to do is create empowerment.”
It takes more than a few extra dwarves to keep the shelves of the Toy Store and Joy Shop full.
Ryan Kogoe is a volunteer firefighter in Underwood, Iowa who is in his fourth season helping the mission over the holidays.
“It’s good to help these families,” said the 22-year-old. “These are the only Christmas gifts they have, so all these toys are great for these kids, they light up the holidays.”
Middle school student Ethan Whitney, 13, volunteers here with his mom and dad.
He said, “Christmas day should be a merry one for all children.” “They must have something under the tree because that is something all children should have, and no one should miss that, on Christmas Day.”
Grace Kinsella is a freshman student at the University of Notre Dame. She worked summers with the mission and returned to help out during the holidays.
“It really changed the trajectory of my career,” she said. “I’m still not quite sure what I’m going to eventually do[after college]but I’m studying business,[and]I’d like to somehow combine social impact with business as well, and see all the individuals here at Open Door Mission who are impacted by the work they do each day “.
All staff and volunteers, regular and part-time, make seasonal programs like The Toy Shop and “Adopt a Guest” possible, no matter the weather.
“On Christmas morning, all 700 of our guests will get gifts wrapped with bows and name cards, which is really lovely,” said Gregory. “It’s just a reflection of the love and care our community has to offer.”
With the storm approaching and Christmas right behind it, the message from the Open Door mission remains clear.
“You don’t have to suffer,” Gregory said, “our society cares.” “That’s why our shelves are full of toys, that’s why we have turkey or ham, which is an option for your families, that’s why you have to pick holiday food pantries, because school is out, we know that’s hard on families, so there’s no need to go without.”
Gregory points out that it’s never too late to reach out if you or someone you know is going without this week of Christmas. The Open Door mission is located about two miles northeast of Charles Schwab Field off Abbott Drive.
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