Promise House for the Holidays

If, as the song says, there’s no place like home for the holidays, there’s no place that’s truer than at Oak Cliff’s Promise House.

As one of the state’s most prominent youth emergency shelters and crisis-intervention centers, Promise House, at 224 West Page, has served as a temporary home and beacon of hope to more than 46,000 children, young adults and their families since opening its doors in 1984. And if, as so many say, holiday giving begins at home, CliffDwellers couldn’t pick a better place to kick off their seasonal celebration.

“The holidays are crazy,” asserts Dr. Harriet Boorhem, executive director of the center, which provides a broad range of social services, ranging from street outreach to counseling to parent education for at-risk children and their families. “Last, year, we provided pretty much complete Christmases to more than 200 of our families — everything from toys to clothing to food. And that’s just the start of what goes on here.”

This year, they expect to help even more — more food, more clothing, more counseling, more support, more nurturing. “The kids we help come in with nothing,” Boorhem states. “When they get here, they need everything. Literally. If you think about whatever a kid needs in life, that’s what we provide and what we do.”

Room at the inn
When Boorhem says “kids,” she’s not exaggerating. The children residing at Promise House range in age from 10 to 17, and the center provides tutoring, counseling and other programs to youth up to age 24. Promise House is also home to some of Oak Cliff’s newest residents: five babies living with teen mothers as part of the center’s pregnancy and new parent residential support program. “It’s nice here at Christmas, but what we do lasts year-round,” Boorhem explains. “We raise children here. We give them food and a place to stay, we help them stay in school, we give them counseling, we give them support, and we help them get all the skills they need to go on with their lives.”

For many of the children living at Promise House over the holidays, the parties and celebrations that are part of the center’s seasonal traditions are firsts. “So many of the kids who are with us at Christmas have never had a real Christmas, and they’re completely overwhelmed,” Boorhem states. “Like all kids, they love parties, so we make Christmas really fun around here. We have a big staff party with the kids, with a lunch and white elephant gifts. We have a tree. We have presents.”

Helping from the heart As you might expect, providing the range and depth of the services and supports Promise House offers its residents doesn’t come without a cost. Funded by a mix of federal, state, local and private funding, Promise House “can always use more help,” Boorhem says. “You can never have enough money, or do enough, when you’re working with at-risk children and their families.” Boorhem suggests that CliffDwellers seeking to help start with financial contributions. “That’s alwa

s easiest for us,” she explains, “because there are always costs associated with helping these kids.” Other items high on her list? “We need baby stuff,” she asserts. “Unopened diapers, wipes, formula — that stuff goes like water around here.” Promise House also accepts donations of new clothing, coats and toys. “People are always generous, and we certainly appreciate it, but at Christmas we really need new things.”

Cristina Riccio, development manager for Promise House, offers up a gift suggestion for community-minded CliffDwellers: a pair of tickets to the February 23, 2007 performance of Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo at Fair Park. Cirque du Soleil got its start as a troupe of street performers, and have adopted Promise House as a cause célèbre. “The show is fantastic, and tickets to the show would make a terrific holiday present,” Riccio enthuses. Tickets to the event cost $125, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting Promise House, and can be reserved by calling 214-941-8578, extension 285, or by visiting www.promisehouse.org.

The two also stress that the needs of Promise House stretch well beyond the holiday season. “Christmas is great because so many people are in the spirit to give, but our needs are year-round,” Boorhem explains. “We can always use donations. We can always use volunteers, although they need to have background checks and be screened before we can put them to work. We have other events — including our April Child Abuse Prevention Fun Day, Cinco de Mayo in early May and our May 7 golf tournament at Bent Tree Country Club this year. We always need sponsors. We always need participants. We always need support.” The complete Promise House holiday wish list can be found at the center’s website, where you can also click through to make a one-time or scheduled monthly donation.

Hamilton Wright Mabie once wrote at the holidays, “Blessed is the season that engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” A conspiracy of love? That sounds a lot like Promise House. ys easiest for us,” she explains, “because there are always costs associated with helping these kids.” Other items high on her list? “We need baby stuff,” she asserts. “Unopened diapers, wipes, formula — that stuff goes like water around here.” Promise House also accepts donations of new clothing, coats and toys. “People are always generous, and we certainly appreciate it, but at Christmas we really need new things.”

Cristina Riccio, development manager for Promise House, offers up a gift suggestion for community-minded CliffDwellers: a pair of tickets to the February 23, 2007 performance of Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo at Fair Park. Cirque du Soleil got its start as a troupe of street performers, and have adopted Promise House as a cause célèbre. “The show is fantastic, and tickets to the show would make a terrific holiday present,” Riccio enthuses. Tickets to the event cost $125, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting Promise House, and can be reserved by calling 214-941-8578, extension 285, or by visiting www.promisehouse.org.

The two also stress that the needs of Promise House stretch well beyond the holiday season. “Christmas is great because so many people are in the spirit to give, but our needs are year-round,” Boorhem explains. “We can always use donations. We can always use volunteers, although they need to have background checks and be screened before we can put them to work. We have other events — including our April Child Abuse Prevention Fun Day, Cinco de Mayo in early May and our May 7 golf tournament at Bent Tree Country Club this year. We always need sponsors. We always need participants. We always need support.” The complete Promise House holiday wish list can be found at the center’s website, where you can also click through to make a one-time or scheduled monthly donation.

Hamilton Wright Mabie once wrote at the holidays, “Blessed is the season that engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” A conspiracy of love? That sounds a lot like Promise House.


 


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