It's a time of year when families long to be together in the warmth of their home, to have loved ones close by to enjoy the joy and blessings of the holiday season.
But that isn't always possible. Circumstances, many beyond an individual's control, have some people forced to leave home during a time when all they want are the simple comforts that home offers.
For those at the Women's Center and Shelter of Pittsburgh, there is no doubt they want to be in a welcoming, safe environment for the holidays. The women, many with their children, want to be where they feel safe, where they are comfortable, where they are surrounded by love. And fortunately, they are.
It's a place that William Gay has adopted, where the women who go there are heroes to him, because he understands better than anyone what they are going through, and how hard it is to leave home for a protective shelter.
"You have to give them a standing ovation because it's hard, it's tough," said Gay. "Once they see somebody that is willing to listen, that isn't judging them, the smile comes on. When I first got there several years ago, they didn't think I cared, they thought I was just there because the Steelers wanted to send someone there. Then they heard my story. They are doing their best to make a bad situation good, you encourage them to keep going."
It's Gay's story of domestic violence that forged the relationship with the shelter. He experienced the pain domestic violence brings when he was just eight years old and his mother, Carolyn Hall, tried to escape an abusive relationship she was in with his stepfather. When she tried to leave the relationship, his stepfather shot and killed her and then shot himself.
That is why Gay hosted a holiday dinner for those in the shelter, giving him the opportunity to bond with those there, to let them know he understands what they are going through, that he cares and that he wants to help.
"My mom is the number one reason I do this," said Gay. "For me to be involved keeps her voice alive. I am doing it for her. She would be happy I am doing things like this in the community to help others."
Gay provided gifts for the women and children there, giving them a little something to bring a much needed smile, something that just lets them know he is there for them.
"Just the vibe there; it's loving," said Gay. "It's Christmas time. And just to meet new people and hear their stories and their plans on when they leave the shelter and hear the hope. To see the kids is fun. It puts a smile on my face each and every year."