Hope for the Holidays

My organization, Community Action Partnership, runs more than twenty programs and services for low-income families throughout the year.  This year, I was asked to take the lead on our school supply distribution and holiday programs.  I loved being part of collecting donations of backpacks and school supplies to help kids get a solid start to the new school year.  We were able to give out over 2,000 backpacks to kids in need this year.  The community response was incredible.  We were even able to give older students scientific calculators.  It was such a cool thing to be a part of.

Backpack donations for 2018 Project Student Success

Now the holiday program, Hope for the Holidays, is in full swing.  Through this program, donors can “adopt” low-income and homeless families and shop for them based on wish lists that they submit.  Donors can also “adopt” a senior this year, and can also donate new toys for kids.  Hundreds of families sign up for this program every year, and every year donors step up to meet the needs of all of these families.  Basically, our community is amazing.  I’ve always loved this outpouring of generosity.  But this is the first year I’ve had much to do with the client family side of the program.

Gary Scott Jen reading '91
My dad, my brother, and me at Christmas a million years ago (1991 probably)

I’ve always thought it was so wonderful of donors to adopt these families so that kids can have a nice holiday.  I never gave much thought to the adults in the families.

Today, I’m spending my day going through wish lists submitted by the families and getting them ready to send to donors.  And I am struck again and again but the love and care that goes into these lists.  These parents are often homeless, in crisis, wondering where they will find the next meal for their kids or how they will keep the heat on or make this month’s rent.  They are dealing with things that would break most people.  But they take the time to fill out these wish lists.  They find a way to get to our office to sign up.  The love and care that is evident in these lists is so humbling.  These parents are so connected to their kids.  Each wish list reflects the hope that they have for their children, their desire to protect their children from the stresses that they are facing.

This program is more than a nice thing to do at the holiday season.  I thought the program name, “Hope for the Holidays” was just a nice alliteration.  It isn’t.  This program truly does represent the hope that these families have.  The hope that next year will be better.  The hope that children will find a safe future for themselves.  The hope that even if it is just for one day, troubles can fall away and be replaced by children’s smiles and joy.

I’m grateful to these families for reminding me what the holidays can be.


For more information on CAP, Hope for the Holidays, and how you help, go to www.capagency.org.