Calgary’s Closer to Home Adopt-a-Family holiday program needs urgent donations

This year, there are 430 families in need, with another 350 families on the waiting list but only 144 have donors

By Krista Sylvester | December 6, 2021 |12:02 am

The recipients of Calgary’s Closer to Home Adopt-a-Family program often send gratitude in the form of “thank you” notes. This year, the program is struggling to meet demand.

Photo: Submitted

It’s a need that’s growing more urgent by the day. 

With 430 families registered, and another 350 on the waiting list, time is running out for Calgary’s Closer to Home Adopt-a-Family holiday initiative as the community need soars with a record number of families needing support this year. 

The organization is now at risk of being forced to make the heartbreaking decision to turn families away, says Suzan Valenta, director of philanthropy for Closer to Home. 

“There’s a sense of urgency and worry because so many people need help, and we had hoped that we could help so many more,” she says, adding there’s been a lag in giving this year. 

The organization only has until Friday, Dec. 10 to secure enough funding to accommodate all of the registered families by Christmas Eve and they are putting out an S.O.S to Calgarians. 

“Adopt-a-Family means so much to hundreds of vulnerable families in our community,” Valenta says. 

“We want to ensure every family is supported, loved and cared for this holiday season. You could make a big difference for a family who’s struggling this time of year.”

A bigger impact than you can imagine 

For more than 10 years, Closer to Home’s Adopt-a-Family program has helped thousands of vulnerable families, but as of Friday, only 144 of the families had been adopted. 

“It’s hard enough to need help, and then to have to ask for it. But often, it’s even hard to receive and people have shared with us time and again how amazing it is that strangers care enough about them to help them through their tough times,” Valenta explains. 

“The gratitude runs so deep, and they just feel it just changes their lives because they feel so valued and cared for, especially when they’re coming from those social-economic barriers where they feel isolated and alone.”

In many cases, it’s new Canadians, new moms or people who are struggling because they lost their job during the pandemic, which is the main contributing factor to this year’s surging number of families needing help. 

“Especially through this pandemic, there’s been so many external factors that have deepened the needs of families, including isolation, separation, mental health challenges, economic challenges and barriers.”

For these families, it means more than just having a Christmas 

The hard reality is that not all children and families get to experience the kind of holiday season many take for granted. 

Having food on the table and gifts for loved ones is simply out of reach for many, such as this single mother of four kids who felt isolated due to the pandemic (her name isn’t being used to protect her privacy.).

“Because of COVID, my kids and I were stuck in the house, and usually I go to a thrift store and get used clothes for my kids. But, sometimes, I appreciate it when I can get my kids new things, and Adopt-a-Family allowed me to do that,” she says. 

“Having this opportunity of getting new boots, coats, socks, underwear … meant the world because the kids were able to go outside and have fun while they stayed warm.”

When she found out she and her family were going to be included in the Adopt-a-Family program, she felt “valued” and “loved.” 

“This is because it was the first time that I actually experienced something like this because this never happens to me. The fact that someone thought of me and my kids made a real difference for me, and I am very grateful.”

How you can help 

With limited time left and many more families needing assistance, Closer to Home is putting out an urgent call to our community. 

Donations to the Adopt-a-Family program are used to provide gift cards rather than physical gifts, empowering parents and caregivers to make their own choices about what their families need most, whether that’s warm winter clothing, toys, or groceries, Valenta says. 

“The families who received this last year were so thrilled because it gave them the ability to have that decision in their own hands. They know exactly what their kids need, and sometimes it’s actually food on the table, or underwear, or winter coats.”

You can donate here until Dec. 10, which is the deadline to ensure families have their gift cards in time for Christmas. 

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Krista Sylvester

Managing Editor at Calgary Citizen

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