By Melissa Ford
The minute you walk through the front door of Hephzibah Home, you know it’s a magical place as you’re greeted by warm, friendly people who have a singular passion: helping traumatized children heal. Yet the real magic happens when you leave; you’re transformed, wanting to give back in any way you can.
It turns out that dynamic, caring people supporting Hephzibah’s mission are found everywhere, not just inside Hephzibah Home. With far-reaching connections, Hephzibah brings people together: stimulating goodwill and generosity; developing big and small ways to support kids, families, and communities; impacting and enhancing human lives; and ultimately, connecting complete strangers who have needs of their own.
Hephzibah is a place to give and to get back. For many, Hephzibah is a place to heal.
Amy and Jim Laurenzo came to Hephzibah to give and they did, in a big way. But they walked away enriched, touched by the lives of many. A few years ago Amy and Jim lost their infant son, Danny, to a tragic accident. Trying to make sense of their loss and wanting to heal yet not forget their son, they met with Mary Anne Brown, Executive Director of Hephzibah. The Laurenzos had conceived an idea that would celebrate Danny while enhancing the lives of children in need.
Brown loved it and Danny’s Birthday Closet was born: a simple, coat closet on the first floor of Hephzibah, continually restocked with gifts for Hephzibah kids on their special day!
Through Danny’s Birthday Closet, an opportunity to celebrate and to be celebrated was created.
As Amy Laurenzo explains, “We wanted to give children birthday presents because we weren’t able to do it for our son.” She adds, “Every time we go to Hephzibah, it’s an extremely emotional experience, meeting all these children who don’t have parents. For my husband and me, Hephzibah ended up becoming a major healing experience as well as a place to continually honor our son while helping other kids.”
The power of love, caring, and celebration, but Danny’s Birthday Closet was only the start.
Spurred on by a reawakening to life, the Laurenzos continued to reach out, but this time to Amy’s best friend, Karen Aeschilman, whose father was dying of cancer. According to Amy, helping in even the simplest way can mean the world to someone. “My friend, Karen and her husband, Brian, were so supportive of us and our work at Hephzibah. So, I got to thinking, ‘What can help people in a time of need? Food!’”
Preparing a delicious lasagna for Karen, who had family visiting from out of town, Amy’s edible offering helped ease her friend’s stress while inspiring others like Karen’s aunt, Marilyn Ayersman.
Moved by the story of the Laurenzos and Hephzibah, Ayersman decided to donate to Danny’s Birthday Closet. Then she made her gift of giving even bigger; she recruited her co-workers at EMC Insurance.
EMC Insurance, a corporate group whose employees are always looking for a charity to support, began volunteering at Hephzibah. As Brown reflects “At first it was one woman volunteering, then two and now seven EMC employees. These volunteers are very faithful and come to a lot of activities. It’s amazing; they even know the kids by name!”
It didn’t stop at EMC; the magic of Hephzibah reached Howard Brundage of Schulz-Brundage Inc. in Downers Grove, IL.
One afternoon while visiting EMC’s local offices, Brundage noticed a photo of an EMC employee wearing a Hephzibah t-shirt taken at a fund-raiser. Commenting that he was Hephzibah’s insurance broker, a conversation ensued. EMC through its 100 Ways of Giving Campaign was offering non-profit organizations an opportunity to compete for four prizes of $25,000 in an online competition; Brundage immediately nominated Hephzibah!
In the words of Amy Laurenzo: “We are connected with people we don’t even know. I’ve learned that the simplest gestures may seem insignificant, but you never know where or how much of an impact you make. Giving becomes contagious!”
It’s time to catch the love!
Through one simple gesture, every day until October 8th, you can make a huge impact on Hephzibah, helping them win $25,000 by voting daily at http://tinyurl.com/EMC-Hephzibah. Click on laptops, smart phones, iPads - and win $25,000 to support Hephzibah’s Reading Academy Program to help traumatized children develop their literacy skills.
Giving is contagious! Ask Amy and Jim Laurenzo, Karen and Brian Aeschilman, Marilyn Ayersman, Howard Brundage, and all the dynamic, caring people that give back to Hephzibah!
Please join us in spreading goodwill with a simple click, everyday.
To help Hephzibah earn $25,000 visit: http://tinyurl.com/EMC-Hephzibah.
To donate to Danny’s Birthday Closet visit: http://abirthdaytoremember.org
For more information on Hepzibah visit: http://www.hephzibahhome.org/