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Adopt A Family – It’s More than Just a Gift

I’ve been volunteering with the Adopt A Family program since I was in high school and we went down to the donation warehouse to “shop” from donated gifts and put together packages. That was 22 years ago (yikes!) but the program is still delivering holiday cheer to people experiencing hardship in our community.

This is my 4th year coordinating the program and I now see how much more goes into matching families with donors than I ever imagined. There’s so much to keep track of and seemingly endless sheets of paper to collect, scan, email and file! But, on every piece of paper is the story of a family living in our community that is struggling just to keep going day to day. I love this program because I remember the first Christmas after my father died. I was 10-years old and it felt like all our family traditions were over. My mom didn’t have the money or the energy to decorate the house, cook a big meal or make the long trip to visit my grandparents. I was dreading Christmas day, knowing that my dad wouldn’t be there to cook us pancakes. BUT when I woke up I found a Barbie beach house assembled in the living room! It was the dream gift that I hadn’t even dared to ask for! It didn’t erase the grief of losing a loved one, but it did remind me that I could be happy and that we could still celebrate. In the years since, my family has made many new holiday traditions, including adopting a family to pay it forward and remind people that they are not alone. 

When you adopt a family for the holidays you receive their “wish list” of what will bring them joy and you get to hear a bit of their story. Here are a few examples of families waiting to be matched with a donor: 

  • A family with 11 and 17-year-old sons who lost their home in the recent CZU wildfire. On the boys’ wish lists are clothes, shoes, video games and Pokemon cards. 
  • A resilient single father who became a paraplegic due to an accident and has struggled to make ends meet for him and his 6-year-old son whom he describes as his “entire universe”. The young boy is hoping for games and activities for outdoor active play and he especially loves Lego, frogs and Star Wars. 
  • A loving Watsonville family with 4 children ages 2-17. The youngest daughter was born very prematurely and the family was met with many challenges in her first year of life. The now 2-year-old is at home and thriving with the help of a feeding tube and oxygen. The 2-year-old is hoping for puzzles and books while her older siblings would love some new clothes. 
  • Young agricultural worker & essential worker parents with a 21-month-old son with a hearing impairment and a 5-year-old son. These young parents have struggled during Covid-19 and have had to miss work due to their toddler’s medical appointments. Their kindergartner is hoping for school supplies, clothes and a bike, while the toddler is also in need of clothes and would love a toy car he can ride on. 

There are hundreds of more families, like these, that are waiting to be connected with a community member that can share their resources and bring joy to the holiday season. Donors commit to providing gift cards for groceries and purchasing 2 gifts for each child (we recommend clothing and something fun) and one gift for each parent. Donors can also choose to not commit to an entire family, but buy gifts on a general wish list and we will make sure they get to a family on our list that will appreciate the gift. Donations are also greatly appreciated, as there are always families who do not get adopted and we shop for them at the end of the campaign.

Wrapped gifts can be dropped off at our donation warehouse between December 8th and December 12th.

To be matched with a family, call the Adopt A Family Hotline at 831-457-9834 10am-4pm Mon-Thurs. until December 10th. and for more information, visit Adopt A Family on our website here.

Wishing you lots of holiday cheer!

In Service and Gratitude,

Christina Thurston

Director of Volunteer Connections

Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County

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