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Giving Back: Two families tell their stories

Published on: December 01, 2004

In the spirit of the season, ParentMap asked readers to share their
stories about how they "give back" to others. Here are two examples of
how families reach out to help those in need:
The Becker family, Renton
Holiday Bags of Cheer
While working in the high-tech field, Stacie and Don Becker observed
that co-workers had so many material items and financial resources,
"yet something was missing in their lives." The Beckers, who had spent
several years volunteering to help children in need, decided "to turn
on people's light bulbs to think of others, especially in their own
backyard," Stacie says.

Four years ago, the couple started a Holiday Bags of Cheer project,
soliciting friends, family and business associates to donate "unused
small objects," such as fast food toys, travel soaps/shampoos, and
cereal bars. These homemade "Holiday Bags of Cheer" have been donated
to more than 200 Pacific Northwest children yearly through the
Washington Children's Home Society.
"Each year, we put the word out via email and provide posters to a list
of friends, local business people and contacts, and the results have
been overwhelming, "Stacie Becker says.
"As a side note of interest, when we started this effort four years
ago, we had no children of our own, but felt the deep desire to give to
children already on this Earth who were in need of support," she says.
"Since then, after years of trying and prayer, we are now blessed with
our own little girl, Ana Lynn (who turned 1 on Oct. 15). We have every
intention of continuing this effort until she, too, is fully engaged is
serving others."

The Niemer family, Seattle
Habitat for Humanity
Giving Back was the centerpiece of the Niemer family vacation last
summer. Instead of jetting off to typical family destinations like
Disneyland or Hawaii, the Niemers (Randi and Jim, plus sons Cappy, 10,
and Jesse 51/2, and daughter McKenna, 81/2) traveled to Guatemala with
Habitat for Humanity.
"We went with a group of 20 from Washington, Oregon and Idaho, many of
whom we know from a family camp we all go to," Randi Niemer explains.
We were gone for two weeks and really saw how people lived and existed
day to day.

"We helped build three houses made of cinder blocks," Niemer adds. "It
was very hard work for all of us. The kids sifted sand, shoveled sand
and dirt, carried many of the blocks, played with the kids from the
families we were building for (Habitat requires that the family helps
build their house), ran to the market to get popsicles or ice cream for
the workers and us, read Spanish kids' books we brought with us, and
many other bridge-building activities."
The adventure was so positive, the Niemers are planning more family
Habitat for Humanity trips in the future. "Overall, it was an extremely
gratifying and wonderful experience." Niemer says. The kids saw "how
privileged we and our friends are and the stark difference in living
styles was very evident.

"Most of these kids have no toys at all," she adds. "Yet, each and
every child we saw seemed very happy and smiles came easily.
"Our kids experienced hard physical labor to help these families have a
300-square-foot house. I think that the physicality of it really helped
put into perspective just what a contribution they helped make. I hope
they won't ever forget it -- I know Jim and I won't."

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