Laura Foley is a Peer Support Specialist at Easter Seals Iowa. After a car accident, Laura says life was at a standstill before she was connected with Easter Seals Iowa. She learned to walk, talk and eat again and now lives independently. She is the first Peer Support Specialist in Iowa, providing hope and inspiration to Easter Seals Iowa clients, with a unique understanding of the challenges they are facing. Laura enjoys music, especially Ben Folds. Her favorite part about her job is seeing the difference she makes in the lives of her Easter Seals family. She states, “Helping others helps me.”
The holiday season can bring many challenges upon us. This year, my biggest challenge was given to me by a long- distance friend, Chris. I wanted to make him something, but he lives out of town. With email taking precedence over snail mail, the price of shipping gifts can be rather burdensome. When I explained this to my friend, he suggested that I do something in his honor. He wanted me to find someone who REALLY needed a gift and to make something for them. My mind immediately went to the homeless people I see down at Quick Trip on a regular basis. After reviewing everything I know how to make, I remembered that tie blankets, though daunting and time-consuming, are incredibly easy to make. So, my next challenge was to find someone to give the blankets to.
So, here’s plan A—blow a ton of money on fleece, make several blankets and donate them. I wouldn’t have to worry about giving gifts, as I could just donate blankets in honor of my family, as I did with Chris. This was going to be cake!
My father pointed out that a few blankets were not going to make that big of an impact. This discouraging conversation led to the kind of attitude that gets things done: “I’ll show you!” Knowing he would see it, I started advertising on Facebook that I was doing a blanket drive. I started receiving blankets from as far away as Los Angeles!
My Aunt Chellie was beyond impressed with this idea, and she started collecting blankets to help. She managed to collect 35 blankets! She gave them to me in a surprise sermon, which not-so-coincidentally was her first solo sermon ever! This is an honor that I can’t even articulate. She even wrote a gushing prayer about how much she loves me.
The following Monday, a co-worker and I gathered all of the blankets together and drove to drop them off at St. Vincent De Paul to donate them. However, the book keeping service next door was on fire. The whole block was blocked off. Disappointed, I turned to Facebook to write about my concerns about how I would deliver the blankets.
Vania Minor, our housing specialist at Easter Seals Iowa, saw my post. She knew where all of the homeless camps in our area are and volunteered to take me to hand deliver the blankets. I was so excited to see the looks on people’s faces as I handed them blankets. The day we passed them out the temperature was about 45 degrees, and was quickly followed by a cold spell unlike anything we’d experienced yet this winter. Timing was perfect!
The day we dropped them off, not only did I see many smiles, I also saw tears of gratitude shed. I hugged many people who probably haven’t been hugged in quite some time. This Christmas, I gave over 52 blankets and many, many hugs. This Christmas, I gave the gift of warmth… inside and out.
Learn more about Laura and her story in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swg1a4q-NX8&t=6s.