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The Salvation Army Adopt-A-Family Christmas Program

The Adopt-A-Family (AAF) program matches impoverished families with individual or group sponsors to provide for their tangible needs at Christmas. Without the benefit of an adoption, these families would be looking forward to a very grim holiday. Being adopted is designed to be a once or, on very rare occasions, twice in a lifetime event for recipient families. When an Adopt-A-Family match is made, the family information and wish lists are sent to the sponsor. The Salvation Army ensures that the family receives the gifts and food during the week before Christmas.

Many adoptees are referred by professional social workers who help deserving families complete an application during required home visits. An inventory of each family’s needs is taken and a Christmas wish list is compiled. This gift guide may include toys, clothing, household items and information regarding the utilities and heating sources. Often sponsors will make payments on utilities or purchase wood or heating oil. Sponsors are asked to provide two or more new gifts for each member of the household and to provide food for the family for four to seven days.

Sponsors come in many shapes and sizes. They can be individuals, families, small businesses or large corporations. In many of the larger corporations, different departments often each adopt a family. Many sponsors find the experience so fulfilling that they participate in the program year after year.

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My personal experience: About ten years ago my wife and I stopped buying Christmas presents for each other. Instead, we adopt a family through the Salvation Army and spend the money we would have spent on each other buying presents for somebody else. We still give each other cards and do things for each other throughout the year, but we wanted our family Christmas experience to be different. Christmas can mean different things to different people, depending on who you ask. For some it is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ; for others, it’s Santa Claus and red nosed reindeer. Whether looking at it from the religious or secular viewpoint, the foundation remains the same; Christmas is about family and about giving and being thankful for what you have.

Christmas is my favorite time of year. It’s become more meaningful as my family has grown, we now have 3 kids 5 years old and younger. It’s amazing how the holidays really come alive when little kids are around. Now my kids, like most kids, gets spoiled from time to time (not to mention that both sets of grandparents live close by!). Whether its mom and dad, or mimis and grandpas, there is never a shortage of clothes, toys, books, laughs, and hugs. During Christmas time, the spoiling can go to an entirely new level. We love buying our kids things, and like most parents we don’t want them to want for anything. At the same time, we want to instill the values of thankfulness and a giving heart. I want them to know the real meaning of Christmas. I want them to know the feeling of what’s its like to give and how much better it really does feel than to receive. Most of all, I want to instill in them humility and a giving heart towards others. They should know that not everyone is in the same position as them; not everyone has what they have.

In comes the Salvation Army and their Adopt-A-Family program. Unfortunately, not everyone is in the same situation as my family. Some kids literally do not get presents on Christmas or ever for that matter. Even worse, while the rest of us gorge on turkey and ham, cookies and pie, there are families who are struggling to just put any food on the table (and I’m talking about here in Orange County!). Gifts aren’t everything and I’m not saying these families don’t enjoy the holidays and spending time with one another being thankful for what they have. But, there is a huge difference in the gratitude and pure joy when a little boy opens a box of legos or a little girl gets her first cabbage patch doll depending on whether they live in a beach house in Newport Coast versus some parts of Santa Ana.

The Adopt-A-Family program takes hundreds of families right here in Orange County, who are in the position I just described, and sets them up with sponsors who will go out and buy their Christmas wish list for them. We usually take one to two families each year, this last year was a family of five and a single dad with three kids. These are people just like us. They are parents who work hard every day and love their kids but are just barely making enough to get by. They are happy with what they have, but to be able to have presents for their children on Christmas, that would be another level of special.

So my wife and I spend a few hours one night at Target and we fill up a shopping cart with the items on their list. We buy wrapping paper and tape so the parents can wrap their own kids’ presents. Everything gets dropped off at Angel’s Stadium and then that’s the end of it. The Salvation Army takes care of everything else and they have their system down. Buying the presents for me and my wife is fun; we actually treat it like a date. It’s only a couple of hours of our time, really not that big of a deal. It’s not that hard of a thing for us to do, but the amount of blessing that comes out of it is absolutely amazing. Families’ lives are changed, spirits are reborn, and happiness is spread in a very big way. That to me is what Christmas is all about.

Now normally, LIFT likes to stick with smaller organizations that don’t see the same kind of funding as some of the larger non-profits. The Salvation Army doesn’t need any help raising money, but this outreach directly affects families right here in our community. Thousands of kids are going to wake up Christmas morning with something to unwrap, and I think that is awesome. If you have a chance, please visit the Salvation Army website. Adopt a family this year, not only will you change someone’s life, but probably yours too in the process.

CLICK HERE to register to become a Salvation Army Adopt-A-Family Christmas Sponsor this year.