Daylight After a Long Night’s Vigil. P’s face was beaming when he brought in a box of candy and pictures of his three-month old son relaxing in an AIN crib, after a long and agonizing stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. P’s wife had sent him to us with a note: “Dear AIN, We can’t thank you enough for your recent baby crib and baby clothing donations. . . . We just had to tell you again how much we appreciate your kindness.” The candy was a welcome treat, but the smile on P’s face was our true satisfaction. A few days later, P called to say the couple wanted to donate the baby’s outgrown clothing, to help another family.
Light At the End of the Tunnel. E. and her fiancé walked for a long time in the darkness of drug addiction and homelessness. They entered a rehabilitation program, and had just begun to get their lives back together when E became pregnant. Instead of plunging them back into hopelessness, the expert and caring attention of LAC+USC Medical Center staff showed them the light at the end of the tunnel. AIN was called for clothing and a bassinet—no room for a crib in the shelter space where E was staying. When the baby was born, we brought the clothing and celebrated with the happy couple. Later we took the bassinet to the shelter, and E’s fiancé was delighted to assemble it for his newborn son.
The Light of Love. When AIN provides food for the family of a hospitalized patient, we usually provide gift certificates, so they can cook meals suitable to their dietary needs. We also include information about any food pantries in their neighborhood. We ask for a return receipt, so that we know our gift arrived safely. One return envelope contained this note, handwritten in Spanish: “God bless you today and always. I thank you with all my heart. My little son says, ‘See, Mama? God sent us something to eat when we didn’t have anything.’ Thank you. Thank you.”
A Guiding Light. Abram was two years old when AIN brought supplies to his mama’s new baby boy. As usual, we added some books and clothing for big brother. But instead of the active toddler we expected, Abram lay in his bed, watching with big, sad brown eyes. He had just undergone his weekly chemotherapy. Soon it was discovered that the baby was born with a hormonal imbalance. And later when he tried to walk, he would cry out in pain. We have been in touch with this loving family for several years. AIN’s Raquel got to know the kids and their special needs. Mom calls her for moral support whenever her burden becomes too heavy. We help occasionally with food and supplies. One day, this brave mom said she got on her knees and prayed over her son. A light came through the window, and she knew he would be all right. The peace she felt at that moment has kept her going whenever one of the children is again hospitalized.
The Light of Recognition. Volunteer Louise Inouye brightens the AIN office one morning a week, working closely with Raquel to prepare and sometimes deliver clothing to newborns, and finding other creative ways to help. If she notices we are out of pencils, she brings pencils. When the emergency room staff mentioned they needed something to hold the personal effects of homeless patients, Louise came in with a load of carry-on bags. She helps her crafts class make items for AIN babies. And for the housewarming of her remodeled home, she suggested that guests donate to AIN rather than bring a gift. When asked about her service, she said, “Why do I volunteer for AIN? Well, the President said we should volunteer. I appreciate those less fortunate than I, and I am grateful I can be of service.”
The Light of Understanding. Jane Lugo surprises us around the holidays with special gifts for new mothers and their babies. It might be beautifully decorated bags of hygiene supplies, or soft blankets with a toy peeping out. Everything she makes for AIN families is done with loving care. Since the very first AIN benefit luncheon in 2002, she has worked behind the scenes to add a graceful touch to AIN’s fundraising efforts. Jane writes, “As an 82 year old, I find I can still volunteer; although I have had to adjust to what I do and where I go. I’m a volunteer from my home. I sew comfy fleece blankets for young ones, make plastic canvas crosses for the Chaplain’s Office and package toiletries for distribution to make women feel special. I feel useful. I believe it brings light to the world, and yes, in the process it warms my heart.”
The Light Goes On. Sister Estelle Kroger, CSJ, Three and a half years ago I was a chaplain at LAC+USC Medical Center. I loved my ministry of spiritual presence to the patients, one person at a time. However, I realized that after eight years in this ministry my heart had become weary from journeying with patients in their sickness and pain. It was time to move on. I was familiar with the work and the staff at AIN through this ministry. I was looking for a quieter place to work, so came searching and found my niche! I am beginning my fourth year here where I love the people I work with and am able to use my gifts of caring and presence, my organizational skills, and my bilingual ability as we minister to persons who find themselves in need.