HOLLAND, Mich. -- While most people spend Christmas morning opening gifts with family and friends, some folks in West Michigan don't get the opportunity to unwrap even one gift for Christmas.
But thanks to the Holland Rescue Mission's Adopt-a-Friend program, volunteers were able to sponsor an individual staying at the shelter in order to buy them a gift to open on Christmas morning, "to make them feel special today and make them feel loved," said Martha Wing, volunteer coordinator at the shelter.
"It can be a difficult day for someone who lives in a shelter," Wing said. "We make sure everybody has something to open on Christmas morning."
Adopt-a-Friend program has been in place for more than five years. Volunteers buy items like essentials for the men and women staying at the shelter. Many of the gifts given Thursday morning ranged from new socks and underwear to winter wear and gift cards.
“Our Holland community is very generous, very loving, and just very willing to reach out and help those in need," Wing said, adding the mission receives so many offers from volunteers during the holidays she is has to turn people away.
However, Wing says, the need is there year round, and she encourages people to offer their time and donations to the shelter beyond the holiday season.
Travis Williams, originally from Benton Harbor, was one of the individuals staying in the men's ministry at the rescue mission to receive a gift Thursday morning.
“I took it as a token of God’s love," he said, "and the people here do appreciate you for trying to get a second chance at life."
“I just got out of jail, and I’m starting from point one so it did help," Williams added. "It brought a smile to my face to see it.”
Wing said about 50 gifts were given out Christmas morning at both the men's and women's ministries. The shelter likes to create an environment that feels like a family for those staying there.
"This morning I would say the mountain top was being here with the men in the homeless shelter, singing Christmas carols," Wing said. "And I was able to give each one a gift. Just seeing how much it means to them, that’s the best part of it."