At Christmas time, good things happen at Aid to Women in downtown Toronto. Last Christmas, a friend who was “moving and downsizing” donated beautiful Christmas decorations. “They were gone in no time,” recalls Ann Wilson, director of Aid to Women. One month before Christmas, another friend sent word that a certain lady wanted to donate gifts to a dozen or so women on Aid to Women’s support list — expectant mothers and those who have recently delivered, who need emotional, medical or financial help up to one year after delivery. “The gifts were stunning and of good quality, such as satchel-handled overnight bags, hats, gloves, scarves and age-appropriate gifts for the children,” says Ann. She selected the needy mothers and, with help, delivered the gifts just before Christmas. Ann reported that, “One mother burst into tears when she received the gift package.”

Especially memorable was 21-year-old Nellie, who immigrated to Toronto from the West Indies to find work. Ann first met Nellie early in her pregnancy when, mistakenly, she entered the Aid to Women office thinking it was the abortuary next door. Ann counselled her, gave her a prayer blanket and a Hope Bible (encouraging prayers) and the assurance of ongoing help if she needed it. Nellie decided to have her baby, even though her parents were in the West Indies and she was here alone, an illegal immigrant with no medical insurance and estranged from the baby’s father.

As is her custom, Ann kept in touch with Nellie during her pregnancy and helped her to find medical aid, assisted her with immigration issues and helped her to plan her finances while she was still working shift work at a packaging plant. Amused, Ann recalls that whenever she’d phone Nellie and ask what she was doing, Nellie would sigh and say, “Oh, I’m relaxing” (her way of handling her anxiety).

However, over time, Ann worried that Nellie was “relaxing” too much and decided to stir her into action. She wrote her a letter saying that she needed a plan for the future and outlined several options: giving up the baby for adoption, going to “a shepherding home” (living with a family until delivery) or keeping the baby, which required a financial plan to pay for the rent and groceries when she would not be working.

Ann visited Nellie in her simple but tastefully decorated apartment to explain the options in the letter. Ann said she’d phone her in a week and left Nellie to ponder her options. Nellie showed Ann’s letter to the baby’s father. She had occasional contact with him. Apparently, he reacted immediately. He promised to pay her rent (subsidized by Aid to Women temporarily) and her bills, because he wanted her to keep the baby. Several months later, Ann learned that Nellie and the baby’s estranged father had reconciled, had the baby baptized and had married.

Last Christmas, when the baby was still an infant, Ann delivered a Christmas gift package to Nellie. She found her “relaxing,” holding her well-cared for babe in her arms. The prayer blanket covered the nearby crib and on its pillow lay the Hope Bible. Ann believes that Nellie’s “relaxing” was the most beautiful gift that she could give her baby. A peacefulness between mother and child filled that small room – a scene that touched Ann’s heart.