Annual Adopt-a-Family initiative kicks off with over 110 families already on the waitlist

The Calgary holiday campaign is underway and the need for help is greater than ever

By Krista Sylvester | October 24, 2022 |5:00 am

Every year, Closer to Home provides gift cards to over 400 vulnerable families in Calgary thanks to donations from Calgarians. Last year, 570 families needed help.

Photo: Submitted

Last year the need was greater than ever and this year, it’s expected to be even more important. 

Calgary’s Closer to Home has launched its annual holiday initiative dubbed Adopt-a-Family, with hundreds of families expected to be on the list over the next two months. 

Last year, Closer to Home experienced long waiting lists for vulnerable families who needed to be adopted during the holiday season, but the organization was able to help 570 families have a special holiday thanks to the generosity of donors. 

“With even more impacts on vulnerable families this year, including job insecurity and the rising cost of living, we anticipate more families will need help this holiday season,” says Closer to Home director of philanthropy Suzan Valenta. 

The waiting list has started 

This year, the initiative just launched and there are already over 112 families on the waiting list with two months to go. 

“That’s about 640 people in those families, so I think we’re going to see a greater need and more urgent need,” Valenta says. 

For more than 10 years, Closer to Home’s Adopt-a-Family program has helped thousands of vulnerable families, but there’s always the risk of being forced to make the heartbreaking decision to turn some away as the number of registrants grows each year. 

“There are a lot of vulnerable families in Calgary, and although we served more than ever before last year, we’re really worried about the demand this year with… the economic challenges that people are facing,” Valenta says, adding the program is integral to the vulnerable families the organization serves. 

“There are a lot more people living at the edge or over the edge. We want to be able to be here to support them.” 

Empowering parents to make their own decisions 

Donations to the Adopt-a-Family initiative are used to provide gift cards to empower parents and caregivers to buy what they know their families need to get through the holiday season. 

“Whether that’s warm winter boots, clothes for the kids, or food on the table, whatever they need to make their holidays special, they are able to do,” Valenta says, adding it also empowers the parents. 

“When we can actually give those gift cards to the parents who know exactly what the kids need, they feel like heroes in their kids’ eyes. It doesn’t feel like charity anymore, it feels like they now have that power and that ability to give their kids what they need at that moment.” 

Gift cards are provided so families can buy whatever they need to get through the holidays.

A special holiday made possible by donors 

Recipients of the program are thankful for the generosity of Calgarians. We kept the names of the families anonymous to protect their privacy. 

“Thankful doesn’t accurately represent what this gift means for my family and me. Because of Adopt-a-Family and your generosity, it means that my kids will actually have a Christmas this year, and just for that, the word ‘thankful’ isn’t enough,” said one family. 

Another family was faced with some tough decisions but the program helped them have a special holiday despite their challenges. 

“We were left with the option of either paying rent or having a holiday meal and gifts for our family. Because of Adopt-a-Family, our children got to wake up to presents during the holidays.”

No donation is too small 

Valenta says any amount, small or large, will help and there are a variety of ways to donate, including the community hands program, which collects donations in a general pool to spread out. 

“Whether it’s $10 or $20 or $100, those donations will go into a pot where we know that not every family will necessarily be adopted personally. So that pot of money will go to make sure that every family gets adopted,” Valenta says. 

Donors can also choose a family to support and there is also a family bundle for larger donors. 

The last day to donate is Dec. 15.

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Krista Sylvester

Managing Editor at Calgary Citizen

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