While the holidays represent a cherished moment in the year to share with family and friends, they can also be full of stress and difficult challenges for many people. The participants in Gemeinschaft Home’s residential programs are in a moment of transition, whether exiting incarceration or joining the program to tackle personal struggles with mental health and substance abuse. The majority are physically separated from their families and loved ones during this season, which adds yet another obstacle to overcome during the holiday season.
Over the years, the Gemeinschaft Home community has sought to create a comfortable home environment for residential participants, an atmosphere that is readily noticeable to all visitors who come through the front door of the men’s home on Mt. Clinton Pike. The women’s home on Old South High Street has also taken on a warm and cozy vibe as the program and facilities have continued to develop this year. Participants in both houses have spent time this month adding holiday decorations, including a Christmas tree, window wreaths, and other elements, which has contributed to a positive seasonal vibe.
Residents continue to work and participate in program requirements during this time, but overall, there is a slower place, giving everyone a chance to relax, enjoy televised sports games or movies, and just spend some downtime together. The staff also strives to make the season special, which is especially important for those participants who have lost family members during the time they were incarcerated or have become alienated from them and are in the process of reestablishing connections with parents, significant others, and children.
For Thanksgiving this year, Gemeinschaft Home’s residential participants received a truly wonderful gift—a fully home cooked Thanksgiving Day dinner. Instead of taking the day off to be with her own family, Theresa Jarratt (food service manager) spent the morning of (and the days prior to) Thanksgiving preparing an enormous spread of traditional foods for the occasion, including roasted turkey and ham and familiar side dishes such as mashed potatoes and candied yams.
Everyone convened at 1PM and enjoyed the great feast together in one of those rare instances when all the participants were in the home at the same time. Generally, the wide variety of work schedules prohibit such a large gathering, but Thanksgiving Day provided such a moment. The smells of good food wafted through every corner of the house, combined with the sounds of football games on tv, and relaxed conversations and laughter. Even though they residents could not be with their families that day, they were able to mark the occasion with a fantastic home cooked meal, surrounded by others in celebration—and they got to enjoy the leftovers throughout the weekend!
There are a few special more special treats in store for the Gemeinschaft Home residents to celebrate the remainder of this holiday season with joy and in the spirit of giving and fellowship. We strive to make it truly a home for our program participants, not just during the holidays, but throughout the whole year, as well!