By Kelsey Morrow
This past holiday season, members of a local family finally got their own beds thanks to the generosity of one of more than 30 generous companies and community members.
Would you go without food or paying your electric bill to give presents to your kids during the holidays? Could you provide presents to your family if you unexpectedly had to provide full-time care to your grandchildren? What if the choice was between paying your medical expenses and providing presents for your kids?
Many parents and guardians across Northeast Florida face choices like these every holiday season. That is where United Way’s of Northeast Florida’s “Adopt-A-Family” holiday service project comes in. This seasonal service project matches families from Full Service Schools with caring sponsors across the community every year. Sponsors are provided with the family’s holiday gift wish list. They then purchase gifts, clothing, and/or food to support the families for the December holiday season. United Way organizes a similar initiative for Thanksgiving, too.
For the 2019 effort, United Way matched 65 families with more than 30 community members and/or companies. CSX led the way in adopting 13 families, followed closely by Bank of America, who adopted 10 families.
Full Service Schools, an initiative of United Way of Northeast Florida and several community partners, help families address nonacademic barriers to success by providing counseling services, tutoring, mentoring, access to basic needs such as food and clothing, and many other services and resources. Families accepted into the Adopt-A-Family project are experiencing extraordinary hardships due to job loss, illness or other challenging circumstances.
“It truly warmed my heart and made me so excited to see how thoughtful and well picked all of the gifts were,” said Genesis Orozco, Englewood Full Service Schools therapist. “This is such an amazing thing done for our families, and I just know they will be forever grateful. Thank you!”
According to studies by the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, giving to others rather than to ourselves makes us happier. If you’re interested in learning about ways to give back in 2020, during the holiday season and all year long, visit unitedwaynefl.org/get-involved, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.