By Tina Chapman
This is my third year participating in the Closer to Home Adopt-a-Family program, not as a donor or a recipient, but as a bystander — a Closer to Home employee. Many donors have expressed to me “It is such a privilege to be a part of this, thank you for letting us contribute!” and I always counter with “Oh no, thank you! We appreciate your generosity so much, and so do our families!” I always thought that was an interesting thing for them to say, that people were thanking us for letting them help. This year though, I think I began to understand where they were coming from. I saw many more parts of the program this year and I was able to participate in or observe every piece of the process.
A large portion of our donations come from a local school, Calgary Academy, and their participation gets bigger every year, which is really essential because the number of families needing help continues to grow each year as well. This year Calgary Academy students, parents and teachers adopted a total of 231 people altogether; 131 foster children through the elementary school Cool Kids Care program, and 18 families through the junior high and high school Adopt-a-Family program. Sarah Hoag, Academic Dean of the school, commends the collective effort saying, “… it just really demonstrated how many of our students at Calgary Academy understand what altruism is, and I’m just so proud…” Altruism is a key part in the school’s REACH philosophy (Respect, Enthusiasm, Altruism, Commitment, Honesty) and I have to agree with her.
I had never been to a gift pick-up at the school
until this year. I have seen the aftermath back at the office, which quickly transforms our boardroom into Santa’s workshop, but until this year, I not had the opportunity to experience the unbridled enthusiasm these kids exude. It is hard not to get caught up in all of that, and I think it really helped to give our staff an extra boost of Christmas spirit! So thank you to everyone who participated through Calgary Academy this year, my hat goes off to you all of you.
I don’t think any of our donors have ever had the opportunity to experience what goes on at the school, but many of our donors have been equally as enthusiastic at the prospect of helping out a family in need. I was continually surprised this year by donors who wanted to do more, who wanted to adopt additional families. This year in total, we helped 139 families for a total of 588 people, 351 of which were children. This is a 72.9% increase in total number of people helped from last year and is a considerable and somewhat alarming increase for one year. Still, Adopt-a-Family donors in our community continually meet the needs of families in their community, and for that, I give you all a standing ovation.
The families in these communities were so overwhelmed by what they received. For these families, it was not about how much they had been given, but the fact they received anything at all, from total strangers. Not only were they provided with gifts to give their children on Christmas morning, they also received gift cards to buy groceries at their local supermarket. Last but certainly not least, it offered parents an opportunity to teach their children that Christmas is a time for kindness and compassion, not only toward friends and family, but also to people you have never met.
The most beautiful thing about this, for me, was being able to follow it full circle from beginning to end – not only at Christmas time, but throughout the past few years as well. I have seen people who have been introduced to our agency as clients in need of the resources and services that we provide, who are adopted one year through the Adopt-a-Family program, who become more involved with our agency and later become volunteers, and sometimes even donors themselves. It’s pretty amazing to see how, through the help of strangers, a family can land back on their feet and not forget how they achieved their success, paying it forward to those who can use a hand, families who are in the same position as they were not so long ago.
On behalf of Closer to Home and the children and families we serve, I would like to thank everyone who contributed this past Christmas, making it our most successful Adopt-a-Family campaign ever.