Every Tuesday morning, the pre-school-aged kids at My Friend’s House get a welcome visitor who always beings a smile with her, creating more on the faces of these young children who are sponges in this world, ready to learn.
Gail Hughes has seen these smiles for almost six years, ever since My Friend’s House opened. And it never gets old.
“I get a lot more out of it than (the kids) get from me,” said Ms. Gail, as she is warmly called by the kids and staff. “Just going into City House and seeing those kids that arrive in the middle of the night and sometimes I see them the next day, and the resiliency that they have. It’s amazing. There is no fear and they know they don’t have to take care of themselves here. You can see the love that is on their faces and the security that they see. It is very therapeutic.”
A retired pre-school teacher of 25 years and a grandmother, Ms. Gail comes to My Friend’s House every Tuesday morning, always with a theme for a lesson. Last week it was “transportation.” The kids learned about cars and boats and busses and planes.
“She comes prepared,” said City House Child Care Specialist Lead Tracey Sherman. “Ms. Gail always brings little props, figures and toys that go along with the lesson, such a mini cars, trains and boats. She brings her own supplies, and always has a book to read to the kids. And she even makes her own play-doh that is the best in the world; it stays soft and never dries out!
“She’s phenomenal. Ms. Gail can even get three-year-old boys to sit for 45 minutes and do crafts, which is a minor miracle of its own. She’s loving, yet firm, but she engages them in every lesson.”
And the kids look forward to seeing her
“After they see me one time, they react to me,” Gail said. “Everything about that place makes you want to go back. When I walk in there and they know why I’m there and that they are going to be busy for the next three hours, they come running to me and yell my name. It is a boost of energy to come in there and see them.”
“I have a bunch of different units of teaching from over the years,” she said. “I get an email over the weekend to let me know how many kids there are, and I do my prep. If it’s a bunch of girls I bring my glitter and jewels, and if it’s boys I bring dinosaurs and mini cars. It is pretty easy to figure out what I want to do. It is such a pleasure because seeing the interaction between the staff and the kids. It is awesome.”
Gail knows the reality. There is a need in Collin County for City House.
“I think it is amazing. When I talk to people about City House they have no clue that there is a homeless shelter for children in Collin County,” she said. “But (youth homelessness) happens to every socioeconomic group in our country. I am so thankful that we have it because the need is definitely there.”
Gail and her husband Doug also foster labs for DFW Lab Rescue, doing so for about three years.
“We just placed our 32nd lab yesterday,” she said. “It has been very rewarding as well.”
Tuesday is coming. And the kids will be ready. But so will Ms. Gail.
“This next lesson will be on transportation again,” she said. “I’m going to bring my paint and let the kids run the wheels of our vehicles though the paint to see the different marks they make on paper.”
And again there will be smiles. It’s simply what comes naturally every Tuesday.