PREBLE COUNTY — Women in YWCA Dayton’s Preble County Shelter were recently donated a holiday meal by Terri Schomaker. The mother of YWCA Dayton Preble County’s case manager Tara Tom, Schomaker has donated eight holiday meals since 2016, helping feed more than 50 women and children in the Preble County Domestic Violence Shelter.
The shelter averages about five to 15 women and/or children at anytime. It is 46 miles between Schomaker’s home and the shelter, but that has never stopped her from donating and making these family’s holidays special.
She started donating when she learned that the women in shelter don’t have special holiday meals. Women in shelter are responsible for making their own food and they prepare whatever they can afford or items that are on hand at the shelter. Once she found that out, Schomaker began doubling her holiday meals and donating half.
She does this because she has been in the same position as these women and children.
“Years ago I was in the same situation as these women, except I didn’t end up in a shelter. I got beat up really bad, I still have tendonitis ringing in my ears real bad. It could happen to anybody. The reason I do it is I’m hoping these dinners and a few little gifts for the holidays will give them some kind of normalcy where they will stick out the fight and not go back and stay on the course they’re on and not be tempted to go back so easy,” Shomaker said.
“It’s not just me, it takes a village. I have a wonderful husband, and I have a lot of faith in God, and I have a good daughter, so between circumstance of her being there and I prayed about it. Like I said, my husband helps. Thank goodness for him, and my daughter Tara. She runs the dinners up and makes an extra trip. We hope it makes their lives a little easier. They’ve gotten this far.
“I want to stay humble about this. Just want to be able to help out. We’re not looking for recognition for it. We started out doing it anonymously. I talked to my husband and a friend about it, and if my story helps for everyone to realize different ways to donate and the impact. Really think about what you’re donating, because that’s really what they’re going to be eating.”
It can take days for Schomaker to put the meal together — she usually starts three days ahead. Whatever she puts on her table for the holidays, she makes sure the women in shelter get it too. They provide the dinner on Christmas Eve, so they can eat it then or on Christmas day.
Due to confidentiality, Schomaker is unable to donate the food herself. When Tom, Schomaker’s daughter, gets off work, she picks up the food. Between leaving work to go to her house in Cincinnati, loading it up, driving back to the shelter, drop off and (of course) presentation, and then driving home, it is usually about a five-hour round trip.
“Fan favorite is the corn casserole and of course the cake pops. The reaction I get is usually surprise and excitement. They know the food is coming, but fail to realize how much food mom makes and they always tell me to thank her,” Tom said.
“[Before Terri Schomaker’s donations the] typical holiday dinner [was] whatever the women would purchase themselves or put together themselves. Sometimes we would get bags of food donated with recipes or hams on occasion. But since they make their own food in shelter, it would be whatever is on hand or what they can afford.
“I do tell the women and children about the food a week in advance. I tell them because many women struggle with having enough food assistance to meet their daily food securities, so I don’t want them to worry or stress on making a holiday meal for themselves and/or their children with what little they do have.
“So, I tell them in advance in hopes they have something to look forward to and to take any stress away regarding supplying a traditional holiday meal. It may not seem like much, but to the women in shelter, it means a lot to them to know someone cares enough to do this.”
The shelter is decorated for the holiday season and a Christmas tree is put up every year. Last year, a holiday party was thrown for the women and children in shelter. Every year, YWCA tries to make Christmas special for the families in shelter.
The dinner from Schomaker is one of those ways.
“My parents make the women in shelter the same dinner that we eat on the holidays. We have our traditional meals as a family every year, and they want the women in shelter to feel like this is a traditional holiday meal for them too. Mom includes tablecloths, little decorative items, or a personal touch to make it feel like home any way she can. Rather than just putting food in a box and sending me on my way, she wants it to be as close to a real family meal as possible, so the little extras are there as well,” Tom said.
“I love it because I get a sneak peak of all the goodies I will be enjoying the next day with my family. Mom also sends gifts for the women and children, a little something just for them to enjoy and oftentimes words of encouragement or strength. She also reminds me to set the table and to put the food out a certain way, so when they see it, it looks presentable and not just thrown on a table.
“Without community support, my job would be much more difficult in meeting clients’ needs. A lot of daily items we provide are donation-based, such as hygiene products, paper products, household items, and clothing. Many women come to shelter with just a handful of items that they were able to grab on the way out. Without community support I wouldn’t be able to provide services or items to the women, so it makes a huge difference.
“Mom never toots her own horn because she believes we are to be humble with ourselves and use our skills and abilities to serve others, to give when someone is in need without expectation – not even an expectation of a ‘thank you,’ because we are doing it for the wrong reasons if we do.”
If you, or someone you know, is experiencing domestic violence, YWCA Dayton’s Preble County Office can help. Call the 24/7 crisis and domestic violence hotline at 937-456-6891.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH