One December afternoon, Pamela Lowe arrived at Cunningham's Spiritual Life Center to volunteer and she didn't come empty-handed. She brought with her gifts she had purchased for our Kids' Shop - where our youth experience the joy of giving back during Christmas by choosing small, inexpensive items (all donated by friends of Cunningham) for the special people in their lives.
"I don't recall having the Kids' Shop during my residency," Pamela said, "but as a child, I can remember all too well about receiving, and not being able to give. I chose to purchase gifts for Kids' Shop as a way to say, thank you, I appreciate you.' I wanted to do what other donors did for me, which was to donate their time and finances to continue to help the less fortunate. It did my soul good to be in a position to do so."
Pamela lived at Cunningham in the mid-1980's and credits her experience here for the life she has built for herself. A loving mother to five grown children, she lives in Peoria and has a good job. She is humble and approaches life with a sunny personality. And although it was decades ago, she feels very fortunate to have had the time she had at Cunningham and wonders if people realize how much their donations really do make a difference in kids' lives.
"Even after 31 years, memories of the Cunningham staff and the special bond I had with the other residents are still fresh in my mind," she said. "You never forget where you come from or the people that have impacted your life in some form. I've learned from Cunningham that you're only a failure if you don't retry what you failed at the first time. Cunningham retried with me, many times over, and I'd like to think they were successful."
Pamela said she hopes the kids at Cunningham now will also accept what's being offered to them-love, compassion, understanding, and communication. She understands firsthand that healing is possible at Cunningham through the resources provided by the generosity of others which is why it was important for her to give back.
"I didn't see hope in my life until I started to embrace how much these people really cared," she said. "They put up with all of my shenanigans out of love for me and never gave up on me. The youth who live here today need to know first and foremost, that I know what they're feeling, what they're going through. They are me, and I am who they can become."