“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”.~ Helen Keller 

I was raised to believe that Christmas is the season of giving.

Empower Hour Girls Blankets

Being raised by a single mother who is a registered nurse, Sunday school teacher, and missionary who lived in Haiti for months at a time, I grew up in ahousehold were Christmas was simply another day to give.

If it was not for a trendy godmother, my Christmas mornings would have consisted of volunteering at the nursing facility where my mother worked.

From my observations in the City of Harrisburg Christmas is a time when many non-profits turn to Toys for Tots, local corporations, and local athletes for toys for the children. However, there is no real streamline or control of the process so too often, families and children can take advantage of several organizations at once because the system is so easy to take advantage of.

Santa is probably shaking his head.

For three years, I organized community Christmas parties at the Central Allison Hill Community Center. It was a challenge getting donations of toys, food, decorations, or music. We transformed a community center in disrepair into a sweet smelling Winter Wonderland. It was about creating a beautiful family atmosphere. However every year, pushy parents demanded more than one toy per child, the snatching, grabbing, pushing and demonstrating nasty attitudes as adults. I vowed after my last Christmas party in 2012, I would no longer feed the fire of entitlement.

I knew that a person can’t want better unless it is taught.

It was time to teach giving and in that moment one of the major objectives of the Empower Hour Girls Program was birthed. We would build leaders through service and teaching the spirit of giving.

The Blankets

This past October, I started making no-sew fleece blankets.

For me these blankets were incredibly therapeutic. They represented my relationship with Harrisburg because you take two opposing fabric and bring them together with the end result of a vibrant, cozy masterpiece. The key is interweaving the patterns in a way that the beauty shows on both sides.

I wanted to share this concept with my Empower Hour Girls. As I started to brainstorm the perfect way to incorporate this craft into a service project, the concept of the Pajama Jam was born. My vision was to get as many charitable programs together under one roof to make blankets.

Picture this—pajamas, Christmas music, food, laughter and crafting for a cause.

Now who would want and, more importantly, need blankets?Empower Hours Blanket 2

A good friend and community volunteer suggested the Bethesda Mission because of their service to the City’s homeless, including women and children and voila we had identified a recipient.

With one phone call, the Bethesda Mission was on board, as excited as I was and grateful for our commitment to make them much needed blankets.

Our next hurdle was materials. With a goal of 30 blankets, fleece is not cheap. We estimated that each blanket costs approximately $27.00 to make. That’s a pretty penny and one our program didn’t have.

Yet again, though, a phone call and a conversation provided a solution. Another non-profit executive director took me to the Fabric Outlet in Wormleysburg, and they sold us what we needed for under $60.00. Tis the season of giving and the steam had just been added to our engine to make this project a success.

The venue was next, and I needed a place that our girls had never been to. I needed to pull them out of their comfort zone for a moment so they could really see the beauty in the City they are from. After attending training at the Harrisburg Civic Club, I was in love with the ballroom. The huge window that boasted a gorgeous sunset on the Susquehanna River was priceless.

Would this club of well respected, highly accomplished older women allow us to use their venue? Would they be welcoming? Would they understand the teaching moment this needed to serve as for our young ladies? How could we intertwine our worlds?

After all, we are all girls at heart right?

They welcomed us with open arms. The Civic Club’s mission is “Civility with Purpose,” and they absolutely wanted to engage our young women to empower them as they transform into great women. This presented an opportunity for both of our organizations. Our girls could become Civic Club women, why not?

And not only would they allow us to utilize their venue, they also wanted to help us make the blankets. Our blanket project was coming together beautifully.

Empower Hour Girls Blanket 2The ultimate goal was to bring in as many local non-profits as possible so we could to make this a unification effort of epic proportions. I started calling and emailing local, youth serving, non-profits inviting them to join us for an evening of fun, fellowship, and service. Each and every program director I spoke with hit me with the “Sounds awesome! We will will get back to you.”

They never did. However, we did not let that discourage us. We were determined that this would become a great service project for our girls no matter.

Our project went seamlessly. We had girls and moms, Civic Club women, and even press. A photographer from the Patriot News photographed the whole thing. Mr. Bradford from the Miracle Network provided our food. The Empower Hour Girls program director, Angel, made the best sloppy joes ever. And I made the table centerpieces.

Our girls played in the powder room, were given a tour of the beautiful mansion, lounged in pajamas, listened to the festive music, and crafted the most extraordinary blankets ever. Most importantly they got the lesson. They were proud to be able to help people in need.

Not one of the kids asked for a gift. There was no self-entitlement lingering in the air. All that lingered was love and the knowledge that they are ready and willing to learn to give and we are ready to teach them.

Our project came together just like the two opposing patterns in the fleece blankets. We introduced Harrisburg’s future to Harrisburg’s past and we intertwined the fringes. We created a beautiful, comforting blanket that will spread love and service throughout the City just like the blankets will be warming the bodies of the women and children of the Bethesda Mission.

Mission accomplished.

Tanya Gordon

Tanya Gordon

Canadian born, Connecticut grown, and a Harrisburg import, Tanya lives in Susquehanna Township with her three teenage boys. She is a paralegal specializing in the public and labor sector and is here to help our youth tap into their purpose because this is their world and their future is at stake. In that spirit, she started the Empower Hour Girls Program.
Tanya Gordon