Hello, yogis! I want to share something that David and I have been doing for a few years now, and that is adopting a family for Christmas. With everything that has happened this year, more families than ever are in need of help, so I figured this would be the perfect time to share.
First, I will be brutally honest: part of what prompted us to begin this tradition was a little selfishness. We both love the holidays, but we were starting to feel stressed and discouraged with how much the gifts and buying of 'things' part of Christmas started to take over our family gatherings. It no longer felt like it was about spending time with family because they really wanted too, but rather, it was more about spending minimums and everyone at the family party just asking when we are going to "do gifts." As a result, our wallets and anxiety levels hurt. So, after talking about it for almost a year, David and I decided that in lieu of buying presents for friends and family, we would instead adopt a family in need and buy gifts for them.
Before I continue on, let me just say that there is nothing wrong with gift giving! It can be a lot of fun and I do really enjoy shopping for others. This was just our personal experience with our own families, and something we decided would be best for us. However, we know plenty of people who adopt families and still buy presents for their own families too. If that works for you, that's awesome! Everyone's financial situation is different, so for us, just focusing on an adopted family or two is what works.
Okay, now I'll get back to the "adoption" process! There are several organizations that help to facilitate family adoptions (I'll list and link some below), and you can choose to remain anonymous (we prefer to stay anonymous so that the parents can sign gifts from Santa). Whichever organization you choose to adopt through, you will usually have to submit a form where you can request a family, the number of families you would like to adopt, and even the number of members per family. So if you can only help one family of three, you can select that so that you do not end up with a family of six!
Once you submit this information, the organization you are working with will send you your family with all of the details you'll need, such as children's ages, genders, clothing sizes, etc. One thing to note is that it can be difficult to read your families profile. Most of the families we have adopted are living out of shelters or in extremely poor conditions. I remember the first year we did this, one of the kids in our family was a 10 year-old boy. All he put on his list were the most basic and practical things that any kid should have, such as a winter hat, jacket and gloves, pajamas and a nice shirt. His one big wishlist item was a basketball. Although you are not expected to purchase everything off of their wishlists (usually just one or two items), this little boy broke our hearts and we tried to get everything on his list and added extra basketball gear in for him too.
Below I will list and link the organizations that we have used ourselves, but I will also provide some other options too. I truly hope you will consider adopting a family this year. Maybe it could even become a family or friend tradition where you all adopt families together and have a gift wrapping party. That way you still get to make someones Christmas, all while seeing and simply enjoying the company of your loved ones. Since it is 2020 though, maybe this year you can make the wrapping party a family zoom date!
Adopt a Family Programs we have used:
Lazarus House in Lawrence, Massachusetts: If you live in or near Massachusetts, we highly recommend the Lazarus House Adopt a Family program. They call their program Project Bethlehem, and it is so phenomenally run! This is where we adopted our families when we were living back east, so if you have any questions, feel free to ask me. You can fill out their form here.
Department of Public Social Services (DPSS), Los Angeles: We adopted two families through DPSS when we first moved to California, and although we are not adopting through them this year (we just wanted to try a different organization since there are so many in LA), we will probably use them again next year. I just received an email from them so I know they are still looking for people to adopt. You can submit a form here.
A Place Called Home: This is the organization we are working with this year. They call their program Family to Family, but they actually select families from DPSS. Because this is a much smaller organization, they may already have enough people to adopt this year, but you can certainly still check. With Covid-19 regulations, they are asking that you keep gifts to gift cards and maybe some smaller items. You can submit a form here.
Other organizations with Adopt a Family programs:
Salvation Army: Check your local Salvation Army's website or email or call them, as most of them run an Adopt a Family program.
Department of Child and Family Services: Many locations, including New York and the east coast are running adopt a family programs. Search by your town or county to submit a form.
Check with your local church: Many churches help adopt families for the holidays, so give them a call to see if they still need people. We have a couple of friends who have gone this route and highly recommend!
Check with your work! Many companies host adopt a family programs and toy drives.
Check with your college alumni network or office. Every year, an alumni group from David's college hosts some form of an adopt a family program or toy drive.
I hope you will consider adopting a family this year. You truly do not need to have or put a ton of money into this. Any little bit that you can do is a huge help, especially where there are even more families struggling this year. If you have any questions at all, feel free to reach out.
Happy Holidays, Yogis!