Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Adopt-a-Family spreads holiday spirit

Chelsea Kollman '13 selects a gift for the local family she sponsored through the Adopt-A-Family program. Credit: Bullion
Chelsea Kollman '13 selects a gift for the local family she sponsored through the Adopt-A-Family program. Credit: Bullion

As Whitman students prepare to head home for winter break, many are looking forward to celebrating the holidays with friends and family. Some families, however, may not have the ability to provide for themselves during the holiday season. To help struggling families in Walla Walla, the Community Service Center is running its annual Adopt-a-Family program.

The Adopt-a-Family program allows Whitman students to form groups that sponsor a family with a certain number of members. In spite of the name, many of the families consist of individuals.

“Someone who is living alone might not otherwise have much of a holiday,” said Lina Menard, Community Service Center coordinator. “Being able to provide that is kind of neat.”

Whitman partners with the Salvation Army and Blue Mountain Heart-to-Heart, a local organization which assists people living with HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C. Each organization collects information from interested individuals or families about what gifts would benefit them, which is then sent to Whitman’s Community Service Center.

Jill Dickey, the Blue Mountain case manager, says that the program is very popular among her clients, some of whom start asking about it as early as September. Dickey helps families come up with the wish lists that are given to the adopting Whitman students.

“Some people ask for gift certificates,” she said. “I try to see if there’s anything tangible that they would like so the people buying the gifts can have a fulfilling experience too.”

Once Whitman students receive a list for their family, they go shopping. Typically, each family receives a gift certificate to a local grocery store, as well as more personalized gifts for each member of the family. The size of the sponsored families varies widely, along with the size of the sponsoring group. This year, a total of 48 families representing 157 individuals were adopted.

Menard said that it’s not just students who decide to adopt families.

“We have faculty members who want their children to adopt a family and have that be part of their own lesson about sharing,” she said.

For members of the Community Service House, adopting a family is an important part of the holiday season.

“I think Christmas is a time when people spend a lot of money on themselves and the people that are close to them,” said sophomore Co-op resident Hannah Johnson. “It’s important to also be thinking of other people who can’t participate in the holiday because they don’t have the means to.”

Dickey says the extra help is appreciated this time of year. All of Blue Mountain’s clients are below the poverty line, and just the cost of heating a home can be a huge burden to a family.

“This is the time of year clients ask for the most help from our agency,” she said. “People have the hardest time making it financially.”

She said that just receiving gifts can make a large difference for a struggling family.

“We always hear that people truly enjoy the gifts they receive,” she said. “We’re really thankful because the Community Service Center chooses to help us.”

Students still wanting to get involved in the project can come help wrap gifts during finals week, as a way of taking a study break while helping others.

Johnson feels that participating in Adopt-a-Family is a great way to celebrate Christmas.

“It’s a great way to take the commercial aspect of the holiday and turn it into something good,” she said.

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