PAHOKEE, Fla. — For almost a year, Warneshia Gibson has been overcoming obstacles and getting her life back.
"Before I came here, I was homeless," said Gibson, while holding her six-month-old baby, Paris.
The young mom has been living at Lake Village at the Glades Western Shelter in Pahokee with her young children.
"I'm just excited. This program has helped me get my kids for the holidays," Gibson said. "Just being able to spend time with my kids, I haven't had that in a couple of years."
A Christmas tree is decorated in the lobby, but the packages on the floor are empty and only for decoration.
"Because we're so new, a lot of people still don't know about the shelter," said Yvette Branch, the shelter's senior director, which runs with the help of Gulfstream Goodwill's homeless and residential programs.
The safe haven opened last December, but it was forgotten about this holiday season and left out of local donation drives. Now, Branch is on a mission.
"I would like to make sure that every child has a gift to open for Christmas, for the holidays, just to put a smile on their face," Branch said.
Staff members went out Monday and bought a small pile of toys with their own money. The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office also found out about the need, and deputies dropped off boxes of stockings Tuesday night.
"Inside they have toothpaste, socks, masks, shaving cream," said Branch, while reaching inside a stocking.
But more than 40 kids now call the shelter home, and Branch is making a plea so every child can have a new toy.
"It's important that we embrace us as a community, and we support each other. That's what this is about, just loving on our neighbor and being kind to another person," Branch said.
Each family that arrives at the shelter gets its own unit. There's a kitchen, furniture, a linen closet inside the bathroom and beds in the bedroom, but families need the basic necessities.
"We don't have pots and pans and dishes and silverware and towels," Branch said.
The shelves are quite empty inside the donation closet, and the shelter is asking for supplies and gifts this Christmas to help families like Gibson's feel valued and loved.
"If anyone can give, just give to the kids. It's like giving them the world they never had," Gibson said.
Here is the shelter's holiday wish list of new or gently used items:
- Food Items
- Canned goods
- Canned meats
- Toys for kids 0-5 yrs. old
- Developmental toys
- Building blocks
- Toys for kids 5-12 yrs. old
- Board games
- Action figures
- Barbie dolls
- Play dough
- Remote control cars
- Kids 13-17 yrs. old
- Clothes (graphic Tee shirts S, M, L and XL) boys and girls
- Shirts (S, M, L , XL and XXL)
- Underwear (S, M, L , XL and XXL)
- Gift cards
- Body wash
- Axe cologne
- Coloring books
- Baseball caps
You can drop off donations at the shelter, which is located at 1749 E. Main Street in Pahokee, Florida.
Donations can also be dropped off at Gulfstream Goodwill's location at 1715 E Tiffany Drive in West Palm Beach, or at any other Goodwill location, but make sure to label your bag and specify it is for the Lake Village at the Glades Western Shelter.