December 25 will be the first Christmas that Denver resident Esperansa Benavides celebrates with her nine-month-old daughter — and through the combination of hard work and a local nonprofit, Benavides says her daughter will get the perfect gift this year.
Twenty-year-old Benavides is one of many local moms served by Hope House Colorado, the state’s only nonprofit that’s specifically dedicated to aiding young moms in the metro area. Hope House offers a number of free resources to help its moms reach self-sufficiency, including a GED program, college and career program, residential assistance — and once a year, the Hope House Christmas Shop.
The Christmas Shop — or as it’s been redubbed this year, Curbside Christmas — gives moms a chance to use points they’ve earned throughout the year to purchase gifts for their children and other family members, offering options like toys, kitchen items and bedding sets.
The moms earn Christmas points by participating in the nonprofit’s programming, which could mean taking financial literacy classes, attending events or working toward their personal aspirations. Many of the moms, including Benavides, have earned some points while working with Hope House to achieve their educational goals. Benavides said she is currently pursuing her GED, which is what brought her to the organization in the first place.
“Obviously as a teen mom, it’s hard for us to go out to school. We have to depend on other people to take care of our baby,” she said. “[Hope House] has helped me with so much support. They have helped me with food and also buying diapers, wipes, formula — and they’ve been there even just to talk about my feelings.”
In the meantime, the Denver mom has earned 450 points this year — the maximum number of points a mom can earn in one year, translating to $450 that can be used to buy gifts in Curbside Christmas.
Because of the ongoing pandemic, the nonprofit’s annual Christmas event will not take place in-person this year, as it has in years past. Instead, the moms are shopping online and receiving their gifts through a curbside pickup system.
And perhaps a bigger effect of the pandemic: The hardship caused by COVID-19 has made programs like Curbside Christmas all the more important.
“We’ve had a lot of hard circumstances this last year and with all the stress of COVID, it’s really pretty hard not to worry about not being able to get them gifts for Christmas,” said Ahriana Heath of her two kids. The Hope House mom has been part of the program for seven years and this year, she’s also earned the 450-point maximum.
“I’m really excited to shop for both of my kids,” she said. “Hope House is the very best organization I have ever been a part of. When I’m able to give back and be a part in that way, I definitely plan on doing that.”
For those who want to support the nonprofit’s mission, there’s good news: Donors can still contribute to Curbside Christmas. Hope House will be accepting toy and other gift donations through Colorado Gives Day, December 8. It will also accept gift cards, which can be donated even after the December 8 deadline.
The nonprofit has posted a list of needed gifts on the Toy Drive page on its website.
And there are plenty of other ways to help out at Hope House, too, with a list of fundraising and volunteer opportunities available on the organization’s site.
Meanwhile, for other young moms out there, Benavides had this advice to give:
“If I saw a teen mom that needed help, I’d encourage them to go to Hope House,” she said. “Whatever situation we’re in, they still manage to support us and help us out. Without them, I don’t know what my life would be like right now.”
To get in touch with Hope House Colorado, visit hopehousecolorado.org or call (303)429-1012.