The holidays are a joyful time for many, but they’re tough for people who have lost loved ones, especially children.
One Greensboro woman has made it her mission to make sure kids who are going through their first holiday without a parent feel love on Christmas morning.
“Growing up, my mom, a single mother…we were homeless for a while,” says Tamika Edwards. “Even though she had siblings, no one knew that she was homeless because she kept it a secret.”
For the first few years of her life, it was just Tamika Edwards and her mom living in shelters.
“And then we got an apartment – JT Hairston Apartments. I was there until 18.”
She says the property manager changed her life by exposing her to experiences such as after-school tutoring and summer camp.
“Sometimes you get stuck because you can’t see that there are other options. If you see a lot of people doing the same thing, you don’t realize that I can do something different. But I saw the difference.”
When Edwards tells the story of her past, she says she wanted to grow up to be the person she needed.
“Because I had gone without so often and felt invisible, I said I wanted to do something because I know there’s a lot of kids that probably feel just like I felt then. And I wanted to do something to show them that you can do it, you can make it, but you have to take these little steps to get there.”
Today she runs six businesses. And she dedicates her success to helping families facing similar struggles through her non-profit Samaritan’s Heart. In the summer, they put on a camp during the day, so parents don’t have to choose between work and childcare. And at Christmastime, they do what’s called Remember Me.
“Remember Me is for children whose parent or parents has become deceased during that year. That’s life-changing.”
It started right after her mother died in 2016.
“I realized when I lost my mom and my cousin lost her mom, we both realized I wonder how can a kid handle this. Because we were 30,” she explains. “You can remember waking up to your mom. Your mom lived without you, but you never lived without your mom. So, it’s hard for kids who have lost a parent.”
That’s when Samaritan’s Heart steps in. They choose a few kids, get their Christmas list from their guardian, and then they turn into Santa’s helpers.
“ …if they say they want a Playstation 4…it’s expensive but we get it. We get everything that’s on the list. Everything that’s on the list. We even ask for colors. Like what colors did they want. We get everything.”
The gifts this Christmas are going to two brothers. Their mother passed away and their father was not able to care for them. They’re now in foster care. Samaritan’s Heart picked them after hearing the story of their foster mother’s unsuccessful attempt to get the older brother to make his bed.
“She turned to him and said ‘do you know how to make a bed?’ and he was like ‘I’ve never had a bed.’ He’s 12 and had never had a bed. When she told me the story, I was like Oh God…and immediately I said that’s our Christmas. The gifts are their Christmas, but that’s our Christmas.”
Edwards walks out the belief that it’s more blessed to give than to receive.