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VOL. 128 | NO. 232 | Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Gift of Happiness

SRVS angel program brings happy holidays to clients

By Amos Maki

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Rebecca Gamble came to become a client of SRVS when she was just 9 years old. Gamble was born with a developmental disability and her parents could no longer care for her so they turned to SRVS, which has housed and nurtured Gamble since 1997.

The SRVS Holiday Angels program helps the organization’s angels, including, from left, Khadijah Screen, Rebecca Gamble and Carl Wilson enjoy the holiday season more.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Now, Memphis-area residents can help make sure individuals like Gamble have a happy holiday season.

SRVS is conducting a holiday “angel” program to allow its neediest clients to share in the holiday happiness. Each SRVS angel has created a personalized wish list of a few basic needs.

“For many of our holiday angels it means someone loves them, someone cares about them and is thinking about them and it gives them a happy holiday experience just like we all want,” said Diana Fedinec, public relations manager at SRVS (pronounced serves). “For them it’s not about the material items.”

SRVS, a United Way of the Mid-South agency, provides comprehensive services to more than 860 people with physical and developmental disabilities.

The angel program is designed to make sure SRVS’ clients who do not have families of their own, or whose families can’t provide gifts, can look forward to the joy of receiving presents during the holiday season. SRVS officials estimate that more than 120 people the nonprofit serves are without families.

“There are people that we serve who don’t have any family and there are a few who have family but their family can’t provide any gifts,” said Cheryl McCaskill, development coordinator at SRVS. “They get to wake up in the morning like everyone else and there will be packages under the tree. We just want everybody to be normal for one day.”

In addition to helping people in need, the angel program can enhance the holiday spirit for people who participate, McCaskill said.

“It gives more meaning to many of them because they’re shopping for people who otherwise wouldn’t have Christmas,” McCaskill said.

Founded in 1962, SRVS offers a broad range of services to individuals with physical and mental disabilities.

“We do everything from support services, employment placement, finding homes in the community, elder support and a day center,” McCaskill said.

SRVS – through the seven main programs it offers – strives to provide its clients with dignity and the basic skills needed to navigate everyday life.

“It’s about helping these individuals lead meaningful, purposeful lives,” Fedinec said.

SRVS even provides in-house employment through SRVS Industries Inc., the nonprofit’s founding program.

Services provided by SRVS Industries include packaging, labeling, shrink wrapping, bagging, sealing and hand assembly.

SRVS Industries has worked with several large companies in Memphis, including Baptist Memorial Health Care, Medtronic, Harrah’s Entertainment and Hog Wild Catering, among others.

The angel program began in the 1970s when SRVS Community Living staff members wanted to provide some holiday cheer for their patients. The Community Living program places SRVS clients in private housing across the Memphis area. The Community Living program supports more than 200 people in more than 80 homes across the area.

“The staff felt that these individuals were like family and they wanted to treat them like family,” Fedinec said. “It slowly expanded to include other SRVS programs and these are the most disadvantaged people we have at SRVS.”

For people who can’t participate in the angel program, or want to provide additional support to SRVS, the nonprofit is offering holiday greeting cards featuring artwork designed by SRVS clients. The cards are available in packs of 10 for $10 and all proceeds benefit SRVS.

For more information on the angel program, call 312-6802 or visit www.srvs.org. The deadline for the delivery of angel gifts is Friday, Dec. 6.

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