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Over 1,200 Guelph area families supported in holiday Adopt-A-Family program

Presents underneath the Christmas tree.
Presents underneath the Christmas tree. Getty Images

Over 1,200 families in the Guelph area are being supported this Christmas through the Children’s Foundation‘s annual Adopt-A-Family program.

It sees families in need referred to the program by local social workers. They are then matched with a donor who goes out and shops for them, buying things like winter coats and boots, pyjamas, toys and gift cards.

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“We’ve definitely had more families referred to us this year,” said program director Karyn Kirkwood.

The program has already supported 1,226 families this year, which is up from 1,175 families in 2018.

The Children’s Foundation has even adopted 30 families itself through cash and gift donations, and expects another 20-30 emergency referrals before Christmas.

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Every year they have seen a steady rise in referrals, but there has been a higher jump than usual this year.

“It’s quite staggering when you think of the need in the community and the numbers, and it’s equally amazing to hear about the donors and how they step up,” Kirkwood said.

A community comes together to replace and decorate a stolen Christmas Tree
A community comes together to replace and decorate a stolen Christmas Tree

Volunteers have been working around the clock, collecting and organizing the gifts from donors that will be hand-delivered to each family by its social worker.

Kirkwood said it’s a miracle every single year.

“There’s a very short period of time to try and get it together and it’s really because of the donors, social workers and volunteers that this can happen every year,” she said.

“It just feels like Christmas.”

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The Children’s Foundation does not set goals for Adopt-A-Family, but it’s something Kirkwood is asked about every year.

“My goal is that there would not be a need in the community. There shouldn’t be poverty in the world. Period,” she said.

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But it can also be a rewarding experience for everyone involved to know that on Christmas Eve when the last donations go out, they can relax knowing they have helped hundreds of families.

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They’ve even had donors come forward who were once recipients in the program and now want to be donors to pay it forward.

“Sadly, we hear the opposite with people who have been donors in the past and have had something come up in their lives that have required them to ask for help,” Kirkwood said.

Christmas tech gift ideas with Marc Saltzman
Christmas tech gift ideas with Marc Saltzman

The benefits seem to go beyond the program, too.

Kirkwood said she hears from recipients who now look at people differently and feel part of a community that they felt disconnected from in the past.

The Children’s Foundation provided a testimonial of sorts from one mother who said she had lost all faith in humanity after what she had been through.

“The idea that strangers would give themselves to make sure my kids had a Christmas was far-fetched in my head,” she said. “When the community worker came and brought Christmas for my babies, I honestly sat on the step and cried.

“With one gesture of kindness, my faith in humanity was restored.”

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But the work is not finished. The need is always there year-round but right now Kirkwood and her team of volunteers are focused on emergency referrals before Christmas.

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Organizers are still looking for donations in the form of cash and gift cards for grocery stores, Stone Road Mall, Walmart, Tim Horton’s and Cineplex.

Any interested donors can find more information on the Children’s Foundation’s website.