HAMILTON, Ohio -- Staff members at Ridgeway Elementary in Hamilton are making sure one family has a reason to celebrate this holiday season.
Every year, educators team up with area businesses to provide food for Thanksgiving and gifts for Christmas to needy families at the school. About 40 families benefit from these efforts each year, said Ridgeway Elementary Principal Kathy Wagonfield.
This year, in addition to providing gifts for other families, Wagonfield is leading an effort to go above and beyond to make sure LaShaunda Bishop and her children have a special Christmas. Thanks to the help of school staff members and donations of services from local businesses, this holiday season the Bishop family is getting a home makeover.
Bishop is a single mother with multiple sclerosis who wears a leg brace and uses a walker. Her daughter, Parris, is a fifth-grader at Ridgeway, and she also has a 4-year-old son.
Her health problems make it difficult to get around.
“The walking part is the part that really gets me because of the leg with the brace and the stiffness,” Bishop said.
On top of her own health issues, Bishop found out within the past month that Parris has diabetes. When she received the diagnosis, she reached out to Wagonfield.
“She’s just been a wonderful person to reach out to,” Bishop said. “She’s been a friend … and she’s been a support for my family.”
Wagonfield had been in touch with Bishop in the past, making sure the family had gifts during past Christmases and ensuring Parris had someone to accompany her to father-daughter dances.
“I’ve always been close to Parris ever since she started school,” Wagonfield said. “She’s got a special place in my heart.”
While they had been in touch over the years, it was Parris’ recent visit to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and her subsequent diabetes diagnosis that led Wagonfield to help fix up the Bishop's home.
Their home recently got a ramp built onto it and is undergoing a full-home sanitation by a volunteer who works for Steri-Clean. It also will get a paint job, new flooring, bathroom fixtures and appliances.
“It will help me to be able to move around better,” Bishop said. “And (it helps) just knowing that I don’t have to worry about the things that I’ve been trying to get done on my own.”
In addition to the cleaning, repairs and home makeover efforts, Wagonfield and those partnering with her also plan to make sure the family has a Christmas tree – something Parris is especially excited about.
Other than being able to move around her house easier, the greatest gift for Bishop will be to see her children happy.
“I appreciate everything, because when you really feel like you’re alone, it’s a blessing to know that you really do have people out there,” she said.
While every Christmas may not entail a home makeover, Wagonfield plans to continue offering assistance to the family, even after next school year, when Parris moves on to a new building.
“We’ve got a lot of things in place because we’ve been working behind the scenes to make sure they get some help,” Wagonfield said.