Sunday, December 9, 2001

Don't be too busy to reach out

Contributing Writer

The holiday season is here again along with so many of the festivities that we have all come to enjoy over the years.

The treats that make the way into our offices, the parties after work, the dinners, the neighborhood or church celebration time, the special family traditions. Ah, yes, the holidays are here and we are on the go again.

Most of us, that is, but not all of us. All of us can't just come and go as we please. Some of us have responsibilities that make it hard or even impossible to get out and enjoy holiday festivities or any event throughout the year.

I'm sure most of you know someone who can no longer come and go at will. Don't forget them during this holiday season and all seasons. Reach out. Care and show it with a visit, an occasional covered dish, a book or some magazines. If you've got a willing heart, the rest will follow; just be aware and remember those in need.

Among those who are in great need of our prayers and any other means of support we can offer are the parents of medically fragile children. These are children with birth defects or those whose young bodies have been severely damaged by viruses, accidents or high fevers.

These parents often must make special care arrangements just to be able to go to the grocery or to church. An occasional special event or family vacation is usually out of the question altogether because they hesitate to ask for assistance.

Very few communities are set up to care for medically challenged kids. In fact more and more Georgia counties are not even set up to care for physically normal children who require foster care for various reasons.

Among those who set the example for the rest of us, regarding these great needs, are Truett and Jeannette Cathy. As most of you know, Mr. Cathy is founder and chairman of Chick-fil-A Inc., the third largest chicken restaurant company in the nation.

Not only has Mr. Cathy hired thousands of young people over the years and offered various incentive programs to help them in pursuit of their education, he has sought others ways to care for our youth.

Mr and Mrs. Cathy founded WinShape Homes, a foster home system, which takes young children and provides a place for them to thrive until they are ready for work or college. There are currently 11 WinShape Homes in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and one in Brazil.

There is also Camp WinShape, a summer camp for boys and girls ages 7 to 16, 25 percent of whom attend on scholarship.

And then there's Hope House. The Cathys recently gave $500,000 toward the Hope House construction fund.

What is Hope House? For nine years it has been an arm of Southwest Christian Hospice, an organization of individuals who offer respite care for physically challenged children so their parents can go to church together, go out to dinner occasionally or even take a much-needed family vacation with other children who often feel left out when a medically challenged sibling requires so much of their parents' attention.

Any mother or father who has ever cared for a really sick child for a week or a month can, if they try really hard, begin to imagine what it must be like for parents who never get a break. Even parents with perfectly normal children need a reprieve every now and then.

In more than 15 years of writing this column I don't think I have ever come right out and asked a reader to contribute financially to any cause. And this may not be the best year to ask, but I am about to do just that.

You see, Hope House is now under construction. For some time one room at Southwest Christian Hospice has been available for the care of children of Hope. Soon there will be an entire wing with a specially designed activity room, a unique garden and play area and a guest house for family members.

As of this writing another four million dollars is needed to meet the $7.2 million Hope House campaign goal. You and I may not have $500,000 to give or even $500 but we can all give five dollars or 25.

There is one more thing you might want to know as you consider what you can give. Southwest Christian Hospice and Hope House are totally nonprofit ministries providing quality care at no cost to patients or their families.

If you want more information about how you can help with your time or money, call 770-969-8354 and ask for Mike Sorrow, executive director.

Thank you, and may your holiday season take on a meaning unlike any it has ever known before as you seek to reach out in your own community to those in need.

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