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HomeStart volunteers help homeless with Mother's Day cards

When Chapel Hill High School sophomore Sydney Melet thinks of Mother’s Day, she isn’t only thinking of her own mother. 

“When I think of Mother’s Day, I think of giving back to your mother and loving her, and showing how much you appreciate everything she does for you,” Melet said. 

Melet volunteers with HomeStart, a residential facility providing housing and services to homeless women and children. Though HomeStart is located in Chapel Hill, it is a program within the Carrboro based Inter-Faith Council for Social Service. 

Inspired by a similar Michigan homeless shelter project, Melet came up with the idea for the “Mother’s Day for HomeStart” program. 

Individuals can make donations to HomeStart in honor of their mothers, who will receive a Mother’s Day card that is decorated with pictures drawn by children from the shelter. 

The Mother’s Day cards can be purchased on the Inter-Faith Council’s website. Individuals can make a minimum donation of $10 to receive a card. All of the proceeds from the donations go toward a fund to help shelter residents obtain permanent housing.

“By donating, you’re helping a woman obtain a real home,” Melet said. “It’s probably a more meaningful gift because you know you’re making a difference in someone’s life.”

In 2014, HomeStart provided shelter to 202 women and 83 children. The organization also served almost 9,000 meals. 

Chapel Hill’s A Better Image print shop donated the design and printing of the Mother's Day cards. Melet, who often led the shelter’s children in arts and craft activities, said the kids enjoyed creating the designs for the cards.

“There are a lot of kids of different ages at the shelter, and so we often have to find something that all of the kids can participate in,” Melet said. “The younger kids mostly just scribbled and the older kids did most of the writing, but I think the cards turned out really nice.”

Elizabeth Garfunkle, the executive assistant of the Inter-Faith Council, said the process of moving out of the HomeStart shelter is expensive, as the mother oftentimes has to buy everything out-of-pocket, from furniture to utensils.

“I’m a mother and as much as I appreciate the flowers, we know that we’re fortunate and sometimes we like to help others,” Garfunkel said. “The mothers and children need help. It’s heartbreaking not to be able to provide for yourself or your family.”

Sydney’s mother, Michele Melet, said HomeStart has already received around $800 dollars in donations through the program. She said she is hopeful that the card sales will grow, as it is not easy to obtain housing in Chapel Hill. 

“A lot of times the women will get free housing grants, but they won’t be able to afford to move in because of certain technicalities such as unpaid power bills,” Michele Melet said. “Sometimes situations come up where no government agency is going to help, and the donations from this fundraiser are going to be able to come in instead and support them.”

As UNC-Chapel Hill’s graduation falls on Mother’s Day, Garfunkle said the “Mother’s Day for HomeStart” program is an excellent gift option for graduates who want to acknowledge their mother on the holiday.

“No one’s saying you can’t also give a mother flowers or breakfast in bed,” Garfunkle said. “We don’t have to limit ourselves but, in this case, trying something different can really make a difference and go a long way.”

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