At the Picket Fence celebrates Christmas in July by raising money for charity. Get to know Vanessa, her beneficiary and her answers to our questions about the virtues of generosity and compassion with this post from the Balsam Hill blog.
For Vanessa, having a loving and supportive family can make a world of difference to a child’s growth. As a devoted mother to two adorable children and as one-half of an amazing sisters duo, our featured blogger knows how much it means to have someone take care of you as you go through the challenges of life. That is why Vanessa always makes it a point to spend time with her family and stay connected to them no matter how far they may be.
Since creating At The Picket Fence with her sister Heather, Vanessa has become one of the most successful bloggers on the internet. Thanks to the wonderful crafts and projects they feature on their blog, the sisters are now considered as mavens of practical decorating. Their articles are constant source of inspiration for many of their followers. But even though they may have found popularity on the blogosphere, for Vanessa and her sister, family will always come first.
As part of Balsam Hill’s Christmas in July charity campaign, Vanessa named Hope Unlimited for Children as her chosen charity to help out. Founded by Reverend Jack Smith and his son Philip along with David Swoap, the former Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, Hope Unlimited for Children aims to rescue homeless children in the streets of Brazil and provide them with care and safe housing.
In a recent interview, she shares on how their family was introduced to the organization. “We became aware of this charity through another blogger and it just struck such a chord with us,” says Vanessa. “As mothers ourselves it is unfathomable to us to think about these young children living on the streets and the hopelessness they would live with every day. We couldn’t NOT do something, and we just knew that this was the right organization for us to support. Choosing a charity to support is a heart decision all the way.”
BH: Could you tell us a bit about the cause you’re supporting and what it means to you?
Vanessa: The charity we’ve chosen is Hope Unlimited for Children. This organization was founded by Reverend Jack Smith and his son Philip along with David Swoap (former Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services) and began when they realized that homeless children in the streets of Brazil were being systematically killed when they were deemed a ‘public nuisance’. Currently, over 1019 children and hundreds more graduates and their families are served daily:
255 children in residential programs
35 children in graduate transition homes
540 children in preschool program
89 young adults in a church founded and led by Hope graduates
Over 100 graduates and children’s family members are also served through graduate support programs, including CENE (a church founded and led by Hope graduates) employment placement services, counseling programs, and family-support programs.
BH: Deciding on a charity to support can be difficult. What led you to choose the charity you’re helping for this campaign?
Vanessa: We became aware of this charity through another blogger and it just struck such a chord with us. As mothers ourselves it is unfathomable to us to think about these young children living on the streets and the hopelessness they would live with every day. We couldn’t NOT do something and we just knew that this was the right organization for us to support. Choosing a charity to support is a heart decision all the way!
BH: Charity and giving are two things that are often associated with the holiday season, but can be easy to forget in our day-to-day lives. Do you have any tips for how people can incorporate the spirit of giving more into their everyday lives?
Vanessa: One thing we love about this particular organization is that they offer you the opportunity to do an automatic deduction from your bank account each month so that there isn’t the risk of forgetting. The other thing we think is important is to be diligent about setting money aside so that when you hear of situations where there are people in need you can pull from those resources.
BH: Could you share a story about a time someone did something kind for you that really touched you?
Vanessa: There are almost too many to list! One story in particular that stands out is from years ago when I found myself really, really sick and trying to take care of my then 4-year-old and 2-month-old. My husband was out of town and I had no family to call on for help. My sweet friend who lived down the street had called about something and hearing the sound of my phlegm-filled voice immediately jumped into action. She walked right over with a container of homemade soup and let me rest while she chased around my son and rocked my baby girl. It was very hard for me to be on the receiving end of that gift. I don’t accept help very well. But we all have times when we need it don’t we? And when we’ve experienced that kindness it makes us all the more determined to extend it to others!
BH: Could you tell us about a time you observed a random act of kindness that resonated with you?
Vanessa: I’ve observed so many over the years that it’s really hard to narrow it down. Some of them have been big and some small. One that is particularly close to my heart is when my nephew was playing t-ball and my sister told our parents that another team full of little boys were having to go without uniforms because the parents simply couldn’t afford to buy them. My parents were so heartbroken thinking about those boys being the only team without uniforms so they purchased all of them. It was done quietly and without fanfare but their acts of kindness throughout my growing up years greatly influenced how we approach giving in our own lives.
BH: Could you share a story about a time you did something for a friend or family member and how they reacted?
Vanessa: Is it ok if I skip this question??? I make it a policy to not toot my own horn about the more personal ways that we help individuals. I find that the most precious acts of kindness are the ones where only the person giving and the person receiving know what has transpired. And sometimes I don’t even want the person receiving to know it’s from me!
BH: How do you encourage your kids to be giving?
Vanessa: One thing we do as a family is talk a lot about how we are called to give. We’ve been given so much and it is our responsibility to give to others. Our kids are encouraged to set aside a portion of their allowances to put towards giving and we also keep a jar in the kitchen that we work on filling up and then we pray about ways that we can use that money to help another family. During the holidays, our kids forego their allowances so that they can use that money towards purchasing gifts for kids in need. We also believe that it is important for kids to learn that it’s not only about giving financially but also about giving of our time and our energy. It’s about helping out a neighbor by bringing them a meal or pulling weeds in their yard. And it’s about approaching life with a generous spirit.
BH: Is there a time when your children acted generously in a way that surprised and delighted you?
Vanessa: Both of my kids have surprised and delighted me on many occasions as I’ve witnessed their generosity both in giving of their own money as well as just being generous of spirit. My daughter particularly likes to give her own things to her friends and will even tape quarters inside of birthday cards to family members. My son recently asked if he could use some of his allowance for a fundraiser they were doing at school to help children in another country and it just warmed our hearts.
BH: What do you think is a simple way people can give back to their communities?
Vanessa: There are so many opportunities within a community to give back. Whether it’s through the food bank or contacting a church to find out about more individual needs. Our church even has the ‘Royal Order of the Red Suspenders’ where they cut and deliver wood throughout the winter to homes who use it as their heat source. It doesn’t have to always be about money. It can be about serving in a way that uses your God-given abilities and gifts. So many times we are focused on the bigger picture and things that are happening in far-away countries, but there are needs right in our own communities that we can help meet if we really start looking and paying attention.
To see Balsam Hill’s list of philanthropic work, please visit our Charity Events page.