Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
Since we have been on the receiving end over the years during the holiday season I wanted to share our experiences and how this assistance has helped us survive over the long holiday break.
The Regional Center has a program called Holidays are for Sharing. A previous Service Coordinator we had placed our name into the system for this program. I am not sure how it all works, but a law firm chose my family. They were given our name, address and phone number.
As we are now into the middle of September it is time to start contacting agencies to inquire if they have an Adopt-A-Family program. For those who reside in California check the site of the nearest Regional Center. The organization that runs the Family Friends in the Los Angeles area has adopted us a few times.
The telephone call comes in mid October asking for a listing of items that are needed for the children and parent. They also inquire to their clothing size and what is needed for the household. For example sheet sets for the kids, pajamas, towels, can opener, toaster, electric toothbrush, slippers, bathrobe, games, puzzles, books.
They also ask what you as the parent are in need of - like a watch, earrings, perfume, wallet, etc. Lastly, will be the discussion of gift cards for grocery stores and similar discount stores. I have always said we are in need of these.
In fact one year Matthew broke our only VCR at the time and we were able to get a cheap model at the grocery store with a gift card. The holiday vacation would have been unbearable for the entire family had we not been able to obtain a new VCR!
Each year at the Elementary School a notice is sent out to families to donate canned foods for families. In the hallway are large boxes that contain the donations. The first year Nicholas attended his preschool special education teacher submitted our name to the office.
Another year at the Hospital therapy we were given a turkey that we gave to the neighbor to cook and share with. The law firm that had adopted us sent me a gift card for Sears. This enabled us to have a small artificial Christmas tree and some tools I needed to maintain our front yard. There was an envelope containing cash and gift cards to grocery stores and retail stores.
I suggest to any professional who works with families to take note of which ones are in need of help. The families that have no relatives in the State and perhaps live on Social Security and Food Stamps. I know from years of experience that for Thanksgiving and Christmas we are broke, since the money comes at the beginning of the month and these holidays fall at the end of the month.
Therapists and Teachers can search for programs that their students can benefit from. I encourage these professionals to submit names of families to these programs as a way to lift their spirits at the end of the year and to help the family get through the holiday break.
Toys for Tots program starts in October. Volunteer Match is another site to check into and see which organizations are posting for help. This will be a good way to submit a family to a non-profit that runs such a holiday program.
Most local news stations partake in some sort of holiday giving drive. Check out their websites and find out which non-profit they are working with and how to get a family involved as a recipient. Boys and girls clubs in your local area will be a good contact resource to find out how to help a family.
Salvation Army Northwest Division has a section for holiday assistance. Volunteer Way in the Delaware Valley helps children and seniors.
Registration starts on October 18th for the Coastside Christmas Adopt-A-Family Program. This is in California and you must reside on the San Mateo County Coastside from Montara to Pescadero.
Saddleback Community Outreach services several cities in Southern California for Thanksgiving meals, December gifts and meals. They assist 400 families. The deadline for a Holiday basket is November 15. Suggestions for a holiday basket for a family of four
John Hopkins University Adopt-A-Family Program. YWCA Toronto Adopt-A-Family.
San Francisco Foundation also helps out at Thanksgiving. United Way Southwestern Pennsylvania. Helpline in Walla Walla County, WA for November and December assistance.
United Way in Vermont has an Adopt-A-Family program. Amazon employee programs from Washington to West Virginia.
Data Center, Santa Clara & nieghboring communities lists locations to get a holiday meal at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Disney Hand Holidays
Please bookmark this article, as I will continue to update with resources I find for areas across the Country. The following is a listing of some suggestions for giving to families in need:
Grocery Store gift cards - they can be in many denominations and usually have no expiration date but no cash is allowed back
Pre paid phone card - this helps with calling long distance family members for the holidays and even to keep in the wallet for emergencies.
Store Cards - Sears, K-Mart, Target, Borders and Toys "R" Us have cards that are in the denomination you choose which enables the recipient to get a number of items in various areas of need
Book store or Video Certificate - this would be to a national chain for book stores to purchase books for the kids and the adult in the family. The video stores would give the family an opportunity to see the latest Rugrats, Barney or Disney video.
Fast Food, Theme Parks and Theatres - this would be the booklets from McDonalds, prepaid movie tickets or a season pass to the zoo or aquarium in the city.
Taxi vouchers, bus tokens, bus pass or metro pass for cities that have rail systems. A pre-paid ATM card that is sold at check cashing outlets. A Christmas tree (artificial or real), decorations, scotch tape, wrapping paper, stockings (filled with fidget toys), restaurant certificates, gift basket, stuffed animals, holiday music cds and cassettes, scented candles, greeting cards.
A character pillow for the child's bed. One year we got Monsters Inc. pillows and a sheet set. Also consider buying a backpack and fill it up with school supplies - like pencils, writing paper, ruler, erasers, scissors, crayons and keychains. A small travel bag for the parent containing some toiletries that might be running low at this time of year.
Many of these places will accept credit card payment, check and cash. Grocery stores all over the country have machines called CoinStar where you turn your change into cash. You get a coupon to cash in at the register. Perhaps turning that cash into a book of stamps and a disposable camera would help the family in need for the holidays.
When you turn your recycling in take the money and change it for a roll of quarters for the laundromat, or many places here now use a prepaid card for the machines instead of change.
A small gift for the children would be a dinnerware set, toothbrush and also a small bottle of perfume or a paper back book for them to give to their parent.
When donating turkeys or hams it is important to make sure it is not frozen the day of the holiday, if this is a last minute donation. A gift certificate to a restaurant for the family to have dinner is always an option too.
When the offerings for donations from various organizations start arriving in your mailbox, stop and look through the phone book - or contact your school or church to find out about an Adopt-A-Family program. This would be done before you send money to an organization that might be helping those in another country, and help those in your own neighborhood.
At the end of the year when The United Way offerings come through the Human Resources department, think about the organizations that help those with disabilities, illnesses, diseases. Help the kids by making a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly deduction to start the new year off and continue with the gift giving year round.