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Staff Blog: Hudelson Christmas story

Written by Emily Blackburn, Residential Coordinator in Centralia, Ill.

The Christmas holiday is a magical time of year for all but even more so at the Children’s Home. Each year, we spend hours on end planning for Christmas in an attempt to make this Holiday special for the residents that live at One Hope United’s Residential Children’s Home. For many of our residents, this is the only real “Christmas” that they have ever experienced. We have many traditions that we have set for the staff and youth at OHU. Some of these traditions include special arts and crafts activities, trips to look at Christmas lights, listening to Christmas carols, Christmas Stocking decorating, Home Christmas decorating contests and the lists go on. 

This year, I was coloring angel tree tags with some of our female residents. Angel tree tags are used for donors to purchase gifts for the residents on our campus. The youth carefully make their Christmas lists and many times, this is the first Christmas list that they have ever written. As I sat with the youth who were coloring angels, I began to talk to all of the girls about their Holiday traditions. The girls took turns around the table talking about their experiences with the Holidays. One girl stated that when she thinks of Christmas, she thinks of when her stepdad broke her arm. I sat stunned at the table as that was not the response that I was expecting. I processed through the event with the resident and she explained that he had broken her arm and was physically aggressive with her on numerous occasions. She stated that her school reported the abuse and her family did not support her – they sided with the stepdad. I told the resident how sorry I was she had to go through that but reminded her that she is now safe at OHU. 

After hearing this story, I did a lot of self-reflection about my own traditions and how happy my memories of Christmas are from growing up. I have tried to incorporate some of my own childhood traditions with our residents over the years as well. It wasn’t until this Christmas that I had really connected that such happy times for many can be so traumatic for others. As a public servant and employee for OHU, it is my mission to create happy memories and set traditions for the youth that we serve, with hopes that they can leave OHU and be able to reflect on the “happy” and “meaningful” memories that were made at the Children’s home.