A Reminder that “Presence” is Always the Best Gift

We receive a lot of holiday messages around this time of year, but the letter we received from Jubilee REACH in Bellevue was a really good reminder about slowing down. When we are so focused on “presents” what really is important is “presence.”

Jubilee REACH is a nonprofit dedicated to helping kids be the best they can be. Employees and volunteers work with kids before and after school through various programs. They help with homework, being a listening ear and inspire, motivate and encourage them. The REACH in Jubilee REACH stands for Relationship, Education, Assistance, Community and Hospitality. There are 36 community programs and 38 athletic activities and programs in seven middle schools and three elementary schools. There is also a Jubilee REACH Thrift store.

Photo courtesy Genevieve Lin / Jubilee REACH

Photo courtesy Genevieve Lin / Jubilee REACH

This year the nonprofit made great strides connecting even more with the community, spreading the word about the programs and earning financial support to continue the good works. Some highlights include joining with MOD pizza, a new corporate sponsor. Kids from a local middle school worked with MOD during a store grand opening and learned business skills. MOD also donated money from their Spread the MODness campaign to Jubilee REACH. The Jubilee Thrift store rebranded this summer and looks super cool and welcoming. Jubilee also expanded to 14 more schools this year and raised $1 million during its second-annual Festival of Trees gala.

Here is the letter they sent us about how Jubilee REACH has helped one family through “presence.”

“I hate you.” Third-grader, Paul, frequently said these words to Vasti and caring volunteers who came alongside him to help with his homework and social struggles. “Those words break my heart,” Vasti replied, before affirming Paul with, “I love you,” and “I think you’re smart, special, and talented.”

Paul’s mom often picked him up late, seldom slowing down enough to say, “Hi” or ask how he was doing. But when Paul saw Vasti, the Jubilee REACH Site Coach at Lake Hills Elementary and Manager of our AM/PM programs, reach out to talk with his mom and his teacher, it worried him.  He feared they were conspiring to correct or penalize him. As time passed, Paul observed his mom showing up, engaging and encouraging him after talking with his teacher and Vasti. Paul began to see them all as friends. Rather than being reminded of his flaws, Paul was complimented and appreciated.

Months ago Paul asked Vasti, “Aren’t you tired of helping me?” Vasti simply affirmed her love for him and her commitment to stay alongside him. Then, just last week, Paul said to Vasti, “I love you,” and laughed. Vasti told Paul what it meant to her, how it warmed her heart to hear him say those words to her. Ah, the sweet reward of staying engaged, never giving up!

Paul came to Jubilee REACH three years ago, as a first-grader. Henrietta, Paul’s elder sister, came to us nine years ago as an isolated, lonely, middle-schooler. We stayed alongside Henrietta. She graduated on the honor roll from Sammamish High School, and she is now on the Dean’s List at the University of Washington with straight A’s in physics, Henrietta drops into Jubilee REACH when she picks Paul up from After School.

Now, the Christmas part of the story. Paul’s mom was absent from last year’s Christmas Party. Later she complained that Paul had not received a big enough Christmas present from Jubilee REACH. Vasti invested time to love Paul’s mom and communicate truthfully. Vasti explained, “It’s not about a present – a mere toy or a wrapped gift – it’s about your presence.  The gift would be you being there to watch him sing a song or decorate a gingerbread house.” Paul’s mom showed up at this year’s Christmas party. She watched Paul sing the Christmas carols with his schoolmates – with a smile on his face.

I love being a part of Jubilee REACH! I love how we STAY alongside each child and the family, one at time. It takes time to love and see hearts transformed. Yes, the gift of “presence” is the best and most important “present.”

Thank YOU for loving and sustaining Jubilee REACH! You can learn more by watching this video called, “A Day in the Life at Jubilee REACH.”

With a heart full of gratitude,

Brent Christie

Executive Director, Jubilee REACH

A Day in the Life at Jubilee REACH from Jubilee REACH.

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