Free holiday celebrations help bring together families temporarily separated by financial struggles

Limited resources in small towns limit family friendly shelters

MARTINSBURG, W. VA. - “So the families kind of get split up at night so for us to be able to do things where they can come together eat together as a family and have that time together in one spot where they feel safe to me is one very important component of the program that we have here,” said Patrick Lewis of the Martinsburg Union Rescue Mission.

Lewis says Martinsburg, W. Va.  like many small towns in the region, has limited resources for homeless families -- which forces shelters to split them up into men’s shelters and separate shelters designated for women and children

“The difficulty is enormous financially and I think more importantly on the emotional side,” said Lewis.  

Martinsburg resident, Amber Werner is not homeless but says her family has fallen on tough times recently, leaving them strapped for cash. Werner says through all the hardship one of the greatest stresses is the limited number of resources for struggling women, children and families

“It's just one of those nervous things, what are you ever going to do if you're behind on rent or if you need clothes just getting clothes for your child it's hard to get help for any of that,”  said Werner.

Werner said the only Easter Sunday event she could take her six month old son to was at a men’s only shelter, something she is incredibly grateful for-- but does occasionally make her a little uncomfortable.  

“Pleasant most the time coming here, a lot of our friends come here to get food but mainly their men so it's more tailored towards them. Sometimes women get looked on, like, ‘what are you doing here’ at times but its open to the public (for meals,)” Werner explained.

Struggles aside, Werner, like many parents in attendance says the event allows her to share a few moments of sacred holiday bliss with her family.

“It’s a huge relief that I can take him (Werner’s son) somewhere and at least he can get a nice Easter meal with a lot of people around to socialize and interact with other people instead of being stuck at home,” said Werner. 

Without the event, Werner said Easter would have been like any other day for her family.

A day many families in attendance said has now become a time where they can temporarily forget about financial problems and kids can simply be kids. 

The Martinsburg Union Rescue Mission served over 108 people on Sunday and handed out over 200 Easter baskets throughout the week leading up to Easter. 

Mission staff said the baskets came from a local teen whose family fell on tough times growing up. The teen and her sister decided to make the Easter baskets in conjunction with local businesses to ensure no child will have to struggle the same way they did during the holidays. 

The Rescue Mission is a men's only shelter but is open to people of all genders for three free meals a day. 

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