In an article in Parade magazine in yesterday's paper entitled "How the Economic Crisis Changed Us" written by Michael J. Berland and Douglas E. Schoen there was a section about benefits some have realized during the crisis. They said that in the past year "creating a more meaningful life" and "giving back" have been important to 68% of those Americans polled. The article also said that 35% had rediscovered community or religious groups and 30% are volunteering more for charities.
None of that really surprises me. I have said for years that our Adopt-a-Family program brings out the best in people. For a touching example of that, read about my friend Joe in a post from last summer. Joe, by the way, is still with us. He and his biker group plan to adopt a little boy through our program this year and Joe has promised to be there in December to volunteer.
AAF gives people a chance to get involved; to do more than just write a check. It's a very personal experience to be able to get a Wish List from a needy child that not only tells you their name and age but their clothing sizes, favorite colors and what kinds of toys and games they like. Although anonymous on both sides, by the time you are done shopping, wrapping and tagging the gifts, you have a little picture in your mind of what your child actually looks like. It's a very satisfying way to get involved.
I haven't had the opportunity to talk to many donors yet this year. That happens more as we get closer to Distribution Week in December when the donors bring in their bags of gifts for the children they have adopted. But one man that I talked to last fall stands out in my memory.
He called the first week in December to ask if he could drop off their gifts early as he would be with his family in Disney World during the week of scheduled drop off. We made arrangements for him to bring them to my house, and as we were unloading his van, I asked about his upcoming vacation. He told me he and his wife have three little girls, and they were all excited about going to see Mickey.
Then he said something like, "We weren't going to participate in your program this year because money is a little tight, and we had this vacation planned and all. But then one day I looked at my girls and thought, 'what if we couldn't buy Christmas gifts for them........." His voice trailed off as he didn't seem able to finish the thought. I was pretty sure he was a little choked up so I tried to fill in with something about what a great job it looked like they had done for their adopted family and hoped they had a wonderful vacation.
I could repeat stories like that all day. And I have to say that as wonderful as it feels to know we are providing gifts of toys and much needed clothing for so many children every year, I personally get more joy and satisfaction from speaking with our donors and volunteers. There is just so much good in people that we don't often have a chance to experience, and with Adopt-a-Family I get to meet and work with these people and I love it!
ADOPT-A-FAMILY UPDATE: As of today we have 548 families matched with donors. That's probably about 1150 children who we know will be getting gifts this year. As great as that sounds, I expect at least that many more to apply before the application period ends on November 20. And our response from donors has definitely slowed. It looks likely that this is going to be the first time in seven years that we may not be able to provide for all the eligible families who apply. A second mailing to last year's donors who have not responded yet will be going out in the next week. We'll keep our fingers crossed that many of those people will be sending back their Donor Reply Card soon!