One special Christmas sparks memories at shelter

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(Host) Rutland’s Open Door Mission provides temporary housing for the homeless.

Inside the old fashioned red brick building there’s a thrift store with all types of used clothing and a soup kitchen which serves up three hot meals a day.

Sharon Russell is the Executive Director of the Mission.

She says the holidays can be especially difficult for those in shelters.

She told VPR’s Nina Keck about one very special Christmas.

(Russell) “One year it was Christmas time and it was 5 o’clock at night and I was pretty tired and wanted to go home. And got to the back door out here and there were three people – little boy and a mom and dad. And they said, ‘Is the store open.’ – We’ve got a thrift store on site. And I said, ‘we just closed up and I’m getting ready to go home.’ And the mother said, ‘well, we can come another time.’ And the little boy said, ‘but I don’t have any shoes.'”

“And I thought – oh God, it’s Christmas Eve and I’m going to send this little boy home without any shoes. So I said, ‘come on upstairs.'”

“So we get upstairs and the little boy whips off his hat and he’s bald as an Eagle. Well in our family we had just been through the death of a nephew who had cancer. So I know this little boy had cancer. And I’m thinking Oh, My God, this is how lucky we are. I’m going home to a warm bed and presents under the tree for my children and all this little boy wants is a pair of shoes. He’s probably not going to see another Christmas.”

“So I started to cry because I obviously saw this little boy and I knew what was going on. So I went down to my assistant and said, go up to the store and give this family everything they need and don’t charge them a dime.’ And she said what’s going on?’ So up she goes and we sent little Eugene off with coats and shoes and they were very grateful people. But before they left, I got their name.”

(music plays)

(Russell) “Because of my nephew dying of cancer in the Burlington hospital, we knew who to call up there. And I said, we’ve got a little boy who’s name is Eugene and we want to help that family for Christmas.'”

“And I went out to MSJ and told the kids about it and they adopted the family. Well Eugene had a wonderful Christmas – the best Christmas probably Eugene ever had and Eugene did pass away.”

“But that was the best Christmas present that I ever had – that I was able to help somebody who only wanted a pair of shoes.”

(Host) Sharon Russell is the Executive Director of the Open Door Mission in Rutland.

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