“I will never get out of here.” “I am not enough.” “I have no hope.” “I am hungry.” “I am stupid.” “I am worthless.” “You are not better than anyone else, so stop trying.”
Christmas Manna is a very special event every year during the month of December that is led by Donnie Wheeler, who is the president of Refuge Memphis, and Niki Schoggen who is the Executive Assistant. It came about 12 years ago by a group of concerned people from Raleigh Assembly of God Church. This effort is now taken over by Refuge Memphis since 2012 and has grown to becoming a well-attended community event that serves low income families.
Christmas Manna has earned the reputation of serving those who need help without regard to race, age, religion, or nationality. Tangible Hope was distributed to over 21,000 people in 2016 by giving out food, clothing, emergency/transitional housing, educational pathways, and wrapped gifts during Christmas time.
“It’s the moment that that child receives that wrapped gift and tightly tucks it under their arm and knows it’s really theirs to take home. Their face lights up with such childlike enthusiasm and excitement grinning from ear to ear.”
During this wonderful December event, the children receive bags of candy, children books (which are donated by Youth Villages) and they are given a Christmas story presentation. This year they were able to give away over 1000 wrapped Christmas gifts to children that are under 12 years old! This event takes a minimum of 106 volunteers, however, this year they were able to surpass that number and had more than 120. This allowed them to give a much more personal touch to serving.
All these gifts are in part because of the many supporters and incredible community partners that help out with this event, such as the Methodist North Hospital Executive Team when they came and spent hours sacking the groceries that were distributed; McDonald’s, who sent over lunch for the Volunteers; The House Memphis, who donated their sanctuary and put on a Christmas service for the families prior to being served; Lausanne Collegiate students who came and played with the children and passed out goodie bags; Members of The House Memphis who collected wrapped gifts for children under 12 and were part of the volunteer team; and Nike employees who brought hats, gloves, coats, scarves, and socks to donate!
“Christmas Manna is a day where you can join individuals from all walks of life and impart joy, hope, and happiness into the lives of young children, the elderly, and the young couples that are struggling so hard just to manage their lives.” Don’t hesitate to come and be apart of something so special that is way bigger than yourself. Being able to experience serving other is truly what real happiness feels like.”
“What does Refuge Memphis mean to me? Tangible hope. To those who have never been through vast amounts of trauma, desolation, and have had every reason to give up, the phrase “Tangible Hope” may not make sense. For me however, it is the life altering phrase that will change our community. I, myself, have wondered where my next meal would come from, have slept in a car, and have felt defeated with no hope. There wasn’t a program like Refuge Memphis around at that time in my life.”
Niki was a domestic violence survivor, and the thought of walking away with a baby and clothes on her back seemed only like a pipe dream. Questions such as “Who is going to help me?” and “Why would anyone help me?” is the same questions that Niki and everyone else experiences. “The years spent in that situation rips any and all self-esteem you have away. Then the norm becomes, I can’t. I’m not worth it. How am I going to survive? I am not worth the effort. All are the wrong ways of thinking. This lifestyle is unacceptable. We MUST remove these labels and negative genres from our vernacular and our children’s vocabulary.”
This is where Refuge Memphis comes in. It has 7 programs that offer Tangible Hope for the homeless, those in hunger, addictions, gang violence, domestic violence, sex trafficking, children in foster care, and those from broken homes.
“It’s more than hug. It’s more than a prayer. It’s leaving our facility knowing that you are now part of a loving family that will help you. You can be mentored. You can even serve alongside us helping others in the same situation you have been through.”
“Refuge Memphis is more than a series of meetings, or a monthly distribution. It’s a group of citizens coming together influencing change from our youth to our elders. We are here to love and support and grow together!”
How can you help?
There are many ways that you can assist Refuge Memphis:
1. You can support us by linking your Kroger card to Kroger’s Community Partners Refuge Memphis. Just like with Amazon Smile program, by linking these accounts, Kroger and Amazon will donate a portion of your sale to Refuge Memphis
2.You can always keep checking our Needs List posted on our website for current needs related to programs or special projects.
3. Volunteer with us! Join us in changing everyday life for our amazing citizens of Memphis. I promise, you will walk away more blessed than those you assist. It’s amazing what can happen when we take the focus off ourselves and place them on assisting and loving others.
4. Donate gently used or new clothing, coats, and shoes. All sized and genders needed
5. Hold a food or toy drive! Have your company or church get involved with a special project that one of our programs will be doing
6. Are you a nurse, doctor, psychologist, therapist, or teacher, and want to give back? Refuge Memphis is always looking for those professionals to partner with to offer top of the line services to our guest.
7. Monetary donations are always welcomed!