Mom collects gift cards for widows and their families

MARIETTA, Ga. -- You know those unused gift cards, the ones you keep telling yourself you need to use before they expire? Mishael Porembski would love to have them, to give to widowed families this holiday season.

Porembski is a widowed mother to two girls, 10-year-old Arie and 7-year old-Sophia. Their father, Porembski's husband Jason, died almost eight years ago, when she was pregnant with Sophia.

She founded a group, called Team Lady 180, to help other widows deal with their grief.

This year at Thanksgiving, Porembski says her daughters told her they wanted to do something for widowed families for Christmas, but she thought it may be too late to undertake something like that. Then just last week, she received a text from a widowed mother who said she didn't have money for food for her children, and that's when Porembski knew she had to do something.

She began with her neighbors, asking people for unused gift cards, or new, if they were willing to buy. She held a neighborhood bake sale to raise funds. She expected to get maybe a few hundred dollars to distribute to widowed families in Atlanta. In just a few days, they've received over $3,000 in donations -- $1,650 in gift cards and $2,000 in tickets to the World of Coke.

(For mobile users: See Arie and Sophia's excitement at receiving their first donations.)

Porembski wrote to 11Alive News:

December 5th was my late husband's birthday. He would have been 45 years old. My daughters and myself have learned to turn his birthday into a positive day by surprising someone with a gift and doing something that he enjoyed doing with us, now together as a family, like go to the theater or the botanical gardens. Only my girls wanted to do something different this year. They wanted to find a way to give gifts to kids from widowed families, like ours, in honor of their dad's birthday. The gift card donations will be given to widowed families-in-need from three main grief support groups: the health and exercise team for widows I founded, Team Lady 180, Kate's Club (which is a grief support group for children who have lost a parent or sibling) and the North Atlanta Modern Widows Club Chapter. I love that my girls are learning through this experience that you are never too young to make a difference! What a great way to honor the memory of their dad, help others and empower their lives after loss. We know up to 300 widowed families in the Atlanta area through our association with my group, Team Lady 180, Kate's Club and the North Atlanta Modern Widows Club chapter. Leadership from each of these grief support organizations has already identified families that are in-need this holiday season. For example, one of my military widows is on a tight budget and her boys haven't had Christmas presents for three years. We have already met the need of this family and some other widowed families with our first day's donations!

(For mobile users: Watch Arie, Sophia and their friends explain how to give to Gift Cards Giving Hope.)

Porembski and her daughters will also be at Athleta at Atlantic Station this Sunday, Dec. 14, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. People are asked to bring an unused gift card to donate at the door. They're also invited to bring a yoga mat for a stretch session.

Porembski and her daughter hope to raise $55,000 before the holidays to help widowed families.

Visit giftcardsgivinghope.org to make a donation.

See more Atlanta Alive moments here.


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