Adopt-A-Family Holiday Giving Program Seeks Donors
By Cynthia Cheng

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Adopt-A-Family Holiday Giving Program Seeks Donors

The thought of Christmas morning conjures up an image of eager children ripping open the holiday presents waiting for them underneath the tree. While many children participate in this annual ritual, there are also children who don’t get to experience the joy and excitement of receiving gifts on Christmas. The Bill Wilson Center, a community organization that serves youth and families, is seeking donors for its annual Adopt-A-Family Holiday Giving Program.

“The goal of the program is to match donors with children who would otherwise receive little or no gifts during the holidays,” says Lyndsey Marks, a volunteer coordinator at the Bill Wilson Center. “The children who will receive the gifts are all youth who have an active case with the Santa Clara County Social Services.”

Marks adds that these children come from underprivileged backgrounds or they are in foster care. Last year, the Adopt-A-Family program supported about 1,000 children. Marks estimates that about the same number of children will participate in the program this year. At this time, only 250 donors have offered to purchase gifts. Therefore, more donors are needed. The deadline to apply to be a donor for the Adopt-A-Family program is November 12. Donations are tax-deductible.

“It’s easy for people to get caught up in the [busy nature] of the holiday season, which comes with family events, shopping, and stress,” Marks says. “Participating in Adopt-A-Family reminds us of what’s really important and this draws our attention to the fact that that not everyone is equally fortunate. While we’re appreciating what we have, we can also help those who don’t have those things.”

“Donors can ask for someone specific,” Marks continues. “For example, sometimes donors would ask for a teenager or they’d ask for a girl. Donors can make specific requests [for the child they wish to help], but oftentimes they’d take whoever needs help. Donors encourage children to be as specific as possible with what they want. So kids might mention on their wish list that they like Mickey Mouse, and the donors will shop accordingly. The social worker fills out this wish list with the child they’re working with.”

Donors are to instructed keep the amount they spend for each child between $100-200. Oftentimes, a child participating in the program might receive a few gifts. Gifts must be new and should not be wrapped, although putting the gifts in gift bags is acceptable.

To protect each participating child’s confidentiality, administrators of the program do not allow donors and the children to meet. However, staffers at the Bill Wilson Center send thank you cards to donors for their participation. Marks adds that she and the center staffers often hear from the social workers that the children are very appreciative of their gifts.

In fact, one year, the executive director of the Bill Wilson Center was present when a child opened a gift offered to him by a donor in the Adopt-A-Family program. The gift was an Etch A Sketch. The child became emotional while holding the new toy in his hands because it was the first time he had ever received a gift on Christmas morning.

Marks mentions that the Bill Wilson Center also accepts donations year-round for the homeless youth drop-in center at the organization’s downtown San Jose location. New underwear, socks, and hygiene products are always needed. A complete donation wish list for the center can be found at http://www.billwilsoncenter.org/action/.

Visit http://www.billwilsoncenter.org/action/adoptafamily.html for general information about the Adopt-A-Family Holiday Giving Program. Call (408) 850-6138 or email adoptafamily@billwilsoncenter.org for more information.