[Palmer] Home for the Holidays
by Kathryn Dyksterhouse
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year! There’ll be much mistletoeing and hearts will be glowing when loved ones are near. It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”
Are you a “play Christmas carols in the car all year long and put the tree up in August” kind of person or do you put your foot down with “the word Christmas won’t even be mentioned in my house before Thanksgiving is over and done?” Regardless or your celebration timeline, this is a time of year that is anticipated and celebrated by most – the glowing of hearts when loved ones are near, right?
Sitting in on a few GriefShare sessions, one common topic of discussion was the difficulties of the holidays after the passing of a loved one. This is so difficult to face, in fact, that there is an entire GriefShare program dedicated to “Surviving the Holidays.” Not only are people who have lost loved ones flooded with memories of happier past celebrations, but they are also confronted almost daily with others who bask in the joy of the season and the gathering with family and friends.
Another group that may struggle during the holiday season are those who have been placed in foster care. Our Mission of the Month for December is Palmer Home for Children. All of the children who have found a home on one of the two Palmer Home campuses have been separated from their parents. But Palmer Home doesn’t spend time dwelling with the children on what they don’t have. They have created beautiful traditions that the children anticipate each year.
What does Christmas look like at Palmer Home?
Christmas decorations go up just before Thanksgiving. Everyone gathers in the main dining hall for a pot-luck style Thanksgiving meal. Everyone is gathered together as one big family and each of the different cottage brings a different dish to the gathering.
Just as in most of your homes, the beginning of December brings excitement and expectations of the upcoming holidays and the end-of-semester school work. Each December, the entire community is invited to campus for the Christmas Open House. Volunteers, staff and children alike present the campus to donors and visitors.
Palmer Home’s most cherished Christmas tradition, the Christmas Traditions Dinner, occurs each year on the Friday before Christmas. After a delicious meal shared on campus by children, caregivers, staff, staff families and sponsors, the children participate in reading the Christmas Story from the Bible. After the meal, everyone spills out onto the grounds and everyone receives a candle. Drake Bassett, Palmer Home’s President and CEO, calls each staff member and child by name, beginning with the person who has been at Palmer Home the longest and ending with the newest addition to the Palmer Home family. As each name is called, their candle is lit. Amid the glow of all of the candles, Christmas carols are sung as an ending to the evening.
On Saturday morning, children and caregivers gather in their own cottages to open gifts. Gifts are donated each year by churches and individuals, making this a special time for all of these children. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, many of the children spend this time with sponsor families. For those who do not have sponsor families, they celebrate the day with their caregivers in their cottages.
As we celebrate this Advent season, let’s pray that these children would experience the joy in knowing that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them so much that he sent His only Son to this earth to die so that we “may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
To learn more about Palmer Home for Children:
Here is a video (from 2010) that captures Palmer Home’s mission well:
And you can visit their website to learn more about their history, their story, to read blog posts, and to find out how you can get involved: https://palmerhome.org/
Also see Palmer Home for the Holidays