JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Friends Jessica Helton and Deb Yobst have teamed up with their families to buy gifts for those in need. They say the feeling of helping others helps them deal with their own loss.
During a time that is joyful for most, two families in the Tri-Cities are grieving. Jessica Helton and her husband lost their daughter, 14-year-old Caraleigh, just before Christmas.
Helton says, “She [Caraleigh] was just a very loving, very kind-hearted child.”
Her friend Deb Yobst lost her brother.
Yobst says her brother was “a wonderful guy, but he struggled as a lot of people do, with mental illness, some substance stuff that kind of goes hand-in-hand, and sadly, homelessness.”
A flyer from Haven of Mercy sparked an idea for Yobst. She and her family started a gift drive for the organization. The Haven is accepting gift donations for its clients of all ages, from infants to seniors.
“It was just my family and my son’s truck, just dropping off a bunch of gifts,” Yobst remembers, “and it was just a wonderful thing.”
A year later, the Helton’s were grieving after their daughter’s death and joined the cause, making it the Caraleigh and Bob Gift Drive. Helton says it’s a great way for Caraleigh to live on through her.
“It hurts so bad that she’s gone and we have to live our lives without her, but she did,” Helton says. “In her short 14 years of life, she had a big impact on others.”
Yobst says some are quick to judge those who need help.
“You just don’t know the life that they’ve lived,” she says. “I do believe that the majority of those people, if not all of them, they don’t want to be in that situation. It’s something beyond their control.”
Helton says it gives her a reason to acknowledge the holidays again.
“It helps me and my husband just to get through because she was our only child. So, at Christmas time, we lost her at Christmas time, we have nothing to look forward to at Christmas,” Helton says. “This at least gives us something to look forward to, it gives us a reason to get out and shop, and it makes us feel good that we’re helping others in need.”
Yobst wants people to know that even a smaller donation can make a big difference.
“That’s the message we’re trying to get out,” she says. “We’re not looking for anyone to give an exorbitant amount. We’re looking for everyone to pitch in a little bit, because together, we can really make a big impact.”
If you’d like to help, call 412-576-4060 to get involved with the Caraleigh and Bob Gift Drive. The deadline for donations is December 14 and gifts will be delivered on December 16.
Go to the Haven of Mercy website here for gift ideas and needs.