The energy in the lobby of First United Methodist Church is palpable – even at 7 a.m. on the Tuesday before Christmas. Volunteers armed with carts wait expectantly for sponsors to arrive so they can help unload their cars and deliver gifts to one of 283 folding chairs marked with a name and a number. Each chair represents a Bellevue family living in poverty this holiday season. Fortunately, each family has been matched with a community sponsor through Bellevue LifeSpring’s Holiday Adopt-A-Family program.
A Community of Giving
The holidays can be a difficult time of year for families living in poverty. Kids are out of school, which means providing additional meals and childcare. Plus, the added stress of providing Christmas gifts and a holiday meal places tremendous strain on both the family and their budget.
Every year, Holiday Adopt-A-Family allows Bellevue residents and businesses to have a hands-on impact in their community by matching families in need with sponsors to provide gifts and grocery store gift cards for Christmas.
“Holiday Adopt-A-Family makes a big difference for our little family,” one mother shared. “This last year was extremely hard for my son Taylor and me.” Recently homeless, single mom Sherry and three-year-old Taylor are looking forward to spending Christmas with a roof over their heads and, thanks to Holiday Adopt-A-Family, gifts under their tree. What is Taylor hoping for? The wish list his sponsors received says he wants a warm winter sweater (light blue), Spider-Man blanket and a three-wheel scooter.
First United Methodist Church has donated space for distribution two years in a row. In the morning, sponsors drop off gifts for the families they’ve adopted, and in the afternoon, the families arrive to pick up the items that have been carefully selected for them.
Santa’s Special Helpers
So how do you receive and deliver gifts to nearly 300 families in less than 12 hours? The answer is simple: volunteers!
From protecting the church floors with over 5,000 square feet of blue tarp, to making 70+ deliveries to families unable to pick up, to helping kids “shop” for donated books and winter accessories, Holiday Adopt-A-Family is made possible by more than 150 volunteers who give their time and effort to families in our community during the Christmas season.
The first family arrives to pick up their gifts a little before 2:00 p.m. The front lobby is busy well into the evening, families queuing up as volunteers gather their presents from among the chairs and help them out to their car. The day is filled with special moments, brief but filled with meaning.
- Kids color on a swath of butcher paper taped to the table while their parents write heartfelt thank you notes to their sponsors. Volunteers help translate for those who don’t speak English.
- One note reads, “Thank you for being so special in our lives. This has been a difficult year, but we give thanks to God for people like you.”
- “Bicicletas, bicicletas!” a little boy cries joyfully as a volunteer wheels out a bike next to a cart full of presents.
- One family has to make two trips home because of their generous sponsor!
- Another receives a bassinet for their newborn baby that won’t fit in their tiny car. A volunteer offers to help them bring it home in his SUV, then carries it up to their second-story apartment.
- “This is the best day of my life,” one volunteer says, wiping tears from her eyes and waving goodbye to a car stacked high with gifts.
- A little girl dances with joy, while one boy hugs every volunteer in the room before he leaves.
It’s More Than Christmas
Each family goes home with much more than gifts. Parents go home knowing their children will wake up to presents under the tree on Christmas morning. Children go home excited for the holiday, seeing their parents smile for the first time in weeks. The entire family goes home with grocery store gift cards for a special holiday meal and extra food for the two-week school break. You give them something to celebrate this holiday season, comforted by the knowledge that their community is there for them, even when things seem hopeless.
Thank you for the impact you made for 283 families (including 670 children) living in poverty this Christmas. Together, we are creating a brighter future for Bellevue’s children.