Christmas in February?
As they carried in box after box, and basket after basket, we started to wonder what organization they were representing. Was this really one family making a donation?
Dave and Rita Watterson had called ahead and set up a time to stop by to drop off some items. When they arrived, we were amazed at the pile of gifts which just kept growing. Eventually the story became clear. Apparently the Wattersons have been supporting area nonprofits for a number of years and this year had an overflow of gifts. Since Covenant House Michigan was on their ‘extras’ list we received the overflow. While they were visiting, the Wattersons informed us that as of now, Covenant House Michigan has moved up to their regular list!
When Rita first started collecting items for charities, she was working at the former Samaritan Hospital. During a shift at the hospital, she met a young woman whose whole face was badly bruised. As the young woman shared her story, Rita was horrified to learn the woman’s husband had kicked her in the face and she was there for treatment.
The woman went to a shelter called, ‘My Sister’s Place’ where she and her son found warm beds and safety. The staff there took the child to school every day and helped the woman to sort out her divorce paperwork. When Rita stopped by to visit and saw the children living at the shelter it really touched her heart. She wanted to do something for them and began collecting items to help. It all began that first year a few co-workers joined her in making stockings for the youth.
Dave laughed at that point in the story and told us, “It started with a car-full that first year and has grown into a truckload of donations.” We learned how the couple’s mission has also spread to family and friends as Dave continued, “All three of our granddaughters help out too. They (the granddaughters) will be over at our house all lined up in a row, sorting toiletries into bags which are used by various shelters.” This past Christmas the family put together 350 care packages.
The Wattersons support a number of programs including My Sister’s Place, Matrix’s teen program, both Covenant House Academy and Covenant House Michigan. Over the years various friends of the Wattersons have come forward with their own ideas on how to help. One friend, who works at a local restaurant, gathered her coworkers together and personally delivered cookies and Christmas goodies to the teens in the Matrix program.
One of the things the Wattersons have noticed over the years, is that more people tend to give during the holiday season. This got them thinking and a few years ago they decided to designate some extra space in their house as a holding place for donations. If they get an overflow of donations, they can save them and pass them out when their favorite organizations show a need. In addition, they also do a lot of sale shopping and have a friendly competition going to see who can get the “best deal” on needed items.
One year this led to an amazing find when the couple saw winter coats on sale for $3.99, “Three dollars and ninety-nine cents! We bought 30 and kept them to donate the following winter. It was a deal we just couldn’t pass up as we knew that someone would need these coats when the weather turned cold again.” Rita exclaimed.
We were honored to meet this amazing couple who are doing so much to make a difference in and around the city of Detroit. They, like all of our generous donors, are the ones who keep us going and give us the means to make a difference in the lives of the kids who call Covenant House home.