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Neighbors helping neighbors: community comes together to support The Women’s Shelter

A block party is not an uncommon sight during the holiday season, but the neighbors who gathered Sunday at Foxfield Bar and Grille made the season bright not only for each other but also for people they have never met and likely never will.

The 500 Block Benefit for The Women’s Shelter started with a group of neighbors who live near Foxfield on S. Edisto Ave. sitting in a back yard talking about having a Christmas party

“We thought why not have a Christmas party that will actually help people out who need help this holiday season,” said organizer Mike Holden. The group threw its first party last year, and the second annual event grew by leaps and bounds.

Event Chair Julie McCaulley said the dozens who attended donated $3,262.42 in cash, gift cards and bus passes to help the women and children served by The Women’s Shelter. The nonprofit has given assistance to local women in crisis for more than 30 years.

“We try to help them to get their feet back underneath them and to give them the tools necessary to rebuild their lives and start over again,” said Angie Whitehead, program director for The Women’s Shelter. “For the community to come together and pull something like this off to help the women we serve… it’s unbelievable.”

The 500 block community also sponsored 27 women and children, bringing in gifts to make their holiday wishes come true above and beyond the donations of cash and bus passes (important because buses are the only transportation available for many of the women).

The lists of requests provided by The Women’s Shelter were heartbreaking: women asking for adult coloring books and journals to provide needed distractions, or for boots and scarves to stay warm, and for gifts for children from teens to infants who want nothing more than to celebrate the holidays the way children are supposed to.

The gifts all came. As the party at Foxfield rolled on, with guests enjoying food and drinks and live music and conversation, the stack of presents on a table grew larger and larger. The 27 women and children living in the shelter may not be where they want to be this holiday season, but they will have gifts under the tree, and more importantly, they will know that there are people in the world who care about them, people who will give of themselves to help a stranger.

Local businesses helped make it all happen, with Foxfield donating space and facilities and raffle prizes, George Dickel donating cocktails, musicians offering their talents to entertain, and many more chipping in.

“Anybody we’ve gone and talked to has been more than supportive,” Holden said. “They want to help. They just need to know how to help.”

Holden added that the women need help year round, and he and his neighbors hope to throw another benefit in the summer. Until then, anyone interested in helping can find what’s needed most at The Women’s Shelter website.

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