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Christmas in Charleston: Travel Nurse Shares Story of Service

Travel nurse in CharlestonBrenda Svitlik, a travel nurse from Oklahoma, was working in Charleston, S.C., for the holidays and looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner with her husband, Frank, and her mother, Carol, in North Charleston.

When Frank pulled into a store parking lot the Tuesday before Thanksgiving to do some shopping and discovered two homeless men living in a windowless car, he knew they had to do something.

“They had pillows stuck in all the windows to try to block the cold air, sleeping in this car at the edge of the parking lot,” Frank recalls. “We try to do what we can for homeless people, so I stepped out to talk to them.”

After giving them a blanket and taking them to dinner, Brenda and Frank learned that the men, Brandon and Steven, were brothers and originally from Kentucky.

Brandon had recently lost his job and home in Charleston, and Steven, who was mentally challenged, had come to live with him due to his mother’s bad health.

Concerned about the brothers, Brenda asked her mother if she’d mind having extra visitors for Thanksgiving dinner, and Carol agreed.

Frank picked up Brandon and Steven early so they could shower and wash clothes before other guests arrived, and the two joined in prayer, ate dinner with the family and even watched football with the guests before heading back to the store parking lot to spend the night.

Frank and Brenda kept in touch with the brothers, who received enough disability income to stay a few weeks in a hotel, and Brandon continued to put in job applications. Carol never expected to see Brandon and Steven again — until she got the surprise of her life.

Brothers hanging Christmas wreathAs Carol drove down her street one Sunday evening in December, she saw bright Christmas lights on a newly decorated home and assumed it belonged to her neighbor. But as she drew nearer, she realized her own home had been decorated for the first time in more than 10 years.

Carol had always loved Christmas, but family had lived far away for years and had been unable to help her decorate. She was speechless as she looked at the lights strung on the pointed gable of her roof, red strands wrapped around each of her front porch columns, a large wreath centered on the pillars, and even a golden giraffe in her front yard.

The best part of all was a fresh Christmas tree, decorated with lights and ornaments, in her front room.

“How could you two do all this in the time I was gone?” Carol asked Brenda and Frank when she finally regained composure.

“It took four of us,” Brenda replied. “Brandon and Steven came back here to help us.”

Thanks to Brenda Svitlik for sharing her experience! Check out Brigida’s story about helping victims of the Nepal earthquake to learn more about travelers who make a difference.

About the author

Lindsay Wilcox

Lindsay Wilcox is a communication professional with experience writing for the healthcare and entertainment industries as well as local government. When she's not circling typos, she's enjoying fish tacos and hanging out with her family.


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