Through its annual Adopt-A-Family Christmas Program, St. Vincent de Paul is working to give Valley families a traditional yuletide with all the trimmings.
Last year about 900 local families were ‘adopted’, according to the St. Vincent de Paul website. This year, the program celebrates 25 years.
“With Adopt-A-Family, we provide Christmas and help those families who can’t otherwise afford it,” said Dottie Sullivan, who is in her 13th year of volunteering with the program.
Along with the volunteers, the sponsors are the bedrock of the program. They can be individuals, groups of neighbors and friends or workplace teams.
“Our sponsors select the size of the family they want to help,” Sullivan said, “and they agree to purchase and wrap one clothing item and one toy item for each child in the family under 16 and one item for the other people living in the house.”
These are the minimum requirements for the sponsors, but they’re always welcome to give more. All gifts are due for delivery by December 19.
Sponsors are matched with families based on their location. After a volunteer obtains all the particulars on a family, they pass the information along to the sponsor who, in turn, reaches out to the family to tell them that they’ve been adopted.
“We also ask our sponsors to provide the makings for a holiday feast,” Sullivan said. “Our families get to select whether they want pork, tamales or turkey, and then they’re given the ingredients for dinner.”
Due to COVID concerns, the Adopt-A-Family Program has asked sponsors to provide their families with a gift card to their preferred grocery store instead of providing a meal. In the past, when sponsors delivered their Christmas goodies, they would often go into the families’ homes for an impromptu holiday visit. Now, sponsors and their families will decide on a mutually agreeable meeting while practicing social distancing.
“The sponsors can come to the families’ door without entering their home,” Sullivan said, “or they can meet in the parking lot of the nearby church. They decide what is most comfortable for all of them.”
“Every year, we have return sponsors,” Sullivan said, “but this year, more and more people are coming out to support our families. They feel lucky to have made it through COVID without losing their job or their home, and now they want to help those who are struggling.”
The Phoenix Diocesan Council for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is comprised of 81 parishes. Of these, around 40 have chosen the Adopt-A-Family initiative as their Christmas charity. Individual churches manage the program and serve those in need within their boundaries. Any family is welcome to apply.