Christmas at Luisa’s house was never a particularly joyful time. Her family just didn’t have enough money to afford things like presents or a tree. It had been like this as long as she could remember.

Luisa grew up in a crowded one-bedroom apartment with her parents and grandmother. Her parents worked hard at multiple jobs to support the family, but there was never enough money. And when her grandmother got sick, things got even worse. With medical bills on top of everything else, her family had to go without necessities like heat. Anything extra, like Christmas gifts, was out of the question.

Luisa tried not to let her family’s situation get her down. But when she went to school and heard the other kids talk about doing things like writing out their Christmas lists and decorating a tree with their families, she couldn’t help but feel let down.

She tried to pretend that she didn’t care that she wouldn’t have a real Christmas celebration. She told people that she thought Christmas was a dumb holiday. But, deep down, she was confused and angry. She wondered why her family didn’t deserve the same joyful holiday everyone else seemed to have.

At her school Christmas celebration, Luisa broke down crying. Her teacher pulled her out of the room to ask her what was wrong, and Luisa explained that her family couldn’t afford anything for Christmas. She expected her teacher to say that she was sorry to hear it, and that would be the end of it.

But instead, her teacher told her about Mercy Home. She explained to Luisa that at Mercy Home, she wouldn’t have to worry if there would be heat in the winter or food on the table. Instead, she told Luisa, she would be surrounded by loving people not just at Christmas but all year round.

Luisa thought about Mercy Home a lot over the next few days. And even though the unknowns of it all scared her, she finally got the courage to tell her parents about Mercy Home. She was afraid her family would be angry that she wanted to look into it, but they agreed that it might be a good option for her.

Shortly after the conversation with her parents, Luisa moved into our Home. It was a lot to adjust to at first. She wasn’t used to being told when to do things, like study or go to bed. And she couldn’t believe there was a space set aside just for her where she could decorate and keep her things.

Luisa began to thrive with the structure Mercy Home provides. Her grades improved, and she began to smile more. She was no longer bogged down with worry over financial problems.

And this year was Luisa’s first Christmas at Mercy Home. She couldn’t believe that she had presents under the tree to open on Christmas morning, or that there was a holiday meal prepared for her and all the other girls to enjoy. The joy on her face was evident as Luisa experienced her very first real Christmas.

We are truly grateful for the difference your friendship makes for kids like Luisa, both at Christmastime and throughout the year.

Please note: Because we care deeply about protecting our children’s privacy, the names and certain identifying details in this story have been changed.