Hosting for the Holidays

Dylan Novacek December 20, 2019

“It’s what we are here for,” Marcy says with pride.

By Dylan Novacek, Content Specialist

“A house of worship isn’t about the people who belong there. It is about the world outside the doors.”

Marcy Frost enters Temple Israel with her hands full. Poster boards to recruit volunteers in one hand, cell phone in the other. The holiday season proves busy for many. This is especially true for Marcy as she prepares to lead her congregation in hosting families who are without a home this holiday season.

As a part of the collaborative, Temple Israel has helped shelter families in need since 2008. Everyone is worthy of having a home, and during the holiday season many go without a safe, warm place to celebrate in.

“It’s a big operation,” remarks Marcy as she reflects on over a decade of service. Overflowing with stories ranging from broken light fixtures to burnt pancakes, one in particular stands out.

“I was working full time as a lawyer and got a call saying we were getting two new families from Families Moving Forward. I was downtown at my office, so I had to rush to get everything set up,” Marcy said, reliving the adrenaline of that moment. “Just as I put the finishing touches on the rooms the families arrived.”

Marcy feared that the room wasn’t up to their standards and felt the need to apologize. Before the words could leave her mouth, a family member turned to Marcy with tears in her eyes. “Thank you! This is perfect.” In that moment, Marcy realized the importance and impact that hosting families has.

“They don’t care about the color of the sheets; they just want a bed for the night,” Marcy said. “For me, it’s all about the people and knowing there are many out there who are just like me. Many who, through factors beyond their control, are without home.”

More stories came to the surface, dozens of vignettes about hosting guests who have impacted Marcy and changed her outlook.

“We’ve seen lives go up and down. They all go on. We’ve had guests once and others multiple times over the years…and they are all amazing people.”

Hosting in congregations is not possible without a network of volunteers. Marcy claims some of the best; the volunteers at Temple Israel are known for going above and beyond. This was especially true in the winter of 2017 as Marcy battled cancer.

“I knew I wouldn’t able to be there like I’ve been in years past. So, I sent an email out to key volunteers and saw people step up in a major way. We had hosting [duties] covered for every single night.”

Despite being in the hospital, Marcy was still sending emails and coordinating the various moving parts that go into hosting. And for Temple, one of those moving parts is ensuring that families have their holiday wishes come true.

Inviting guests to participate in Hanukkah traditions, families also can select how they want to celebrate.

“We ask guests if they want a Christmas tree. We ask what gifts they want. We ask when they want to open their gifts. It’s totally customized,” Marcy said, briefly pausing to answer an email regarding purchasing presents for the families.

“I believe our volunteers feel it is our obligation to give back. They get a lot out of this. Volunteering and hosting has become a common thread that connects our congregation.”

Through hosting families, the congregation at Temple Israel sees the struggle they face firsthand and helps create true change. It connects the community and reflects the power that faith communities have.

“It’s what we are here for,” Marcy says with pride. “It is an experience that broadens the horizons of the people who get involved. It changes their outlook and their life.”