|By Michelle Symington|
SOUTHWICK After receiving phone calls from donors looking to adopt a family for the winter holidays last year, the Southwick Family Support Coalition (SFSC), has decided to create an Adopt-a-Family program this year in addition to its annual Giving Tree program.
Lori Rodriguez, coordinator for the Coalition, explained that she took calls from donors looking to adopt a family as they came in last year.
"They said what they wanted to do was for us to identify families that had needs and let them know how many kids, the genders and interests of the children," she said.
She said that six different organizations ended up helping 11 families last year.
"This year, we decided we would promote it as a program," Rodriguez said.
The SFSC is seeking both families to help and donors interested in adopting those families in need.
She explained that with the Adopt-a-Family program, donors can choose to adopt a family or a child and can decide how many people they can help.
When an interested donor calls, Rodriguez said there is a form they fill out that includes all of their information and what they are looking to do for a family. In addition to children, donors can also choose to adopt the adults in the families.
As soon as she finds a family that matches what the donor is looking for, she notifies the donor and goes over the details of the ages, genders and interests of each person, she added. She said that some details such as a person's favorite color or size in clothing is also given to the donor.
"It is all anonymous," she said. "The donors do not know who they are shopping for. It is a small community and we want to keep peoples' privacy."
Although the donors may not know exactly who they will be shopping for, Rodriguez said that one donor from last year said she had a "blast" shopping for the gifts because she knew what to purchase.
That donor was from the local Subway Restaurant, which Rodriguez said involved its customers in the donation.
She said that the patrons of Subway were asked to make donations and the staff then took all of the money and went shopping for the family in need.
Rodriguez said that the SFSC is leaning more toward the Adopt-a-Family program rather than the Giving Tree because "that way we know we are getting people what is needed."
A family that is adopted is still eligible to participate in the Giving Tree, according to Rodriguez.
She explained that the Giving Tree gives parents of families in need the chance to "shop" for toys for their children from an array of items donated by local families, organizations, businesses or individuals or items that were purchased by the SFSC with monetary donations.
"It is unique because we do not fill bags," Rodriguez said. "We lay it all out on the tables according to age and invite the parents to come shop. They get to pick and choose what their kids may be interested in."
Parents may have the opportunity to choose more than one toy as well as sticking stuffers for their child depending on what is available and what the Coalition can offer, Rodriguez said.
She also said that some years, the Coalition is able to offer families Christmas trees.
According to Rodriguez, 103 children received gifts from the Giving Tree, which she said was down from previous years.
She said that she cannot pinpoint why the number was down, especially since the numbers of families in need in the food pantry has increased.
Rodriguez said that she wants to make sure anyone in need is served.
She said that the Southwick Grange also helps families through their knitting and crochet program by offering them hats, mittens and gloves.
New this year for both the Giving Tree and for the Adopt-a-Family is a registration process.
Rodriguez said that she wants to ask people to register ahead of time because the Coalition is trying to address specific needs.
For example, last year she said there was a shortage of gifts for teens.
"We want to let people know they should register ahead of time because it lets us know if we come up short on gifts," she said, adding that the Coalition can then go out and purchase what is needed.
The deadline to register for families in need is Dec. 2 for both the Adopt-a-Family program and for the Giving Tree.
Donors must register for the Adopt-a-Family program by Dec. 2 and have until Dec. 9 to drop off a new unwrapped toy to the SFSC for the Giving Tree.
Families in Southwick or children enrolled in the Southwick-Tolland Regional School System are eligible for the Giving Tree, which will take place this year Dec. 10 from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. at the SFSC.
For more information about the programs or to register, call the SFSC at 569-3456.