Somewhere between predictions of a harsh winter and an anemic bottom line on Black Friday, there’s a young segment of the population that is looking forward to the holiday every bit as much as their parents are dreading it.
With the non-stop marketing of toys and games comes the sick dread felt by parents who can’t afford them. Sometimes, it’s because of job loss and subsequent loss of medical coverage. Sometimes, it’s because of unanticipated expenses like car repairs or home improvements. Sometimes, just the need to make ends meet means that there’s little left over for presents after paying rent, utilities or other expenses.
And that, says Allison Pendell Jones, secretary of the Downtown Baltimore Family Business Alliance, is where the Adopt-A-Family program comes in. The program, which allows families, individuals, businesses and others the ability to provide holiday gifts to local children, is gearing up for this season, and is looking for those willing to play Santa (in name only; no wearing of beards and red suits required).
Through the program, those who are interested can complete an online form with the Downtown Baltimore Family Business Alliance (available on the website of www.dbfam.org), and will receive, by e-mail, a wish list provided by a local family. The list will include details on each child’s age, gender, clothing size, and a list of items the child might like (as indicated by the parent). Those who sign up are asked to purchase at least one gift for each child in the family. The ability of what to purchase and how much to spend, says Pendell Jones, is the choice of the individual who signs up.
“(The amount spent) varies quite a bit on what the adopting family decides to do,” she notes. “The expectation is one gift per child, and most families have about two kids. So it can be as little as $20 to $30. However, from our experience last year, most families purchase several items for each child and likely spent, on average, $100. I would add that some spent well over that amount and were incredibly generous buying items for the entire family, although that certainly is beyond expectations.”
Those who are interested in helping sponsor a family must sign up no later than Monday, Nov. 23. Wish lists will be sent out no later than Wednesday, Nov. 25.
This year, as they did last year, the organization is partnering with Wolfe Street Academy, which serves PreK to 5th grade students. (Some families will also have younger children, and some will have students in middle school or high school as well). Almost 75% of the students attending qulify for free or reduced-price lunch, according to the DBFA website.
This is the second year the program has been offered, adds Pendell Jones. Last year, DBFA was able to match nearly 100 families through the program, far exceeding its initial estimate.
“The response has been overwhelming,” says Pendell Jones. “Last year, we in fact had more adopting families at one point and we were able to identify some additional families in need to match with our generous families wanting to help. This year, I’ve expereienced the same, wonderful response.”
And more help, she notes, is always needed. “I would say that the need is greater this year, given the economy. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see that even in this tough economy, families are as willing, if not more so, to help other members of their community. We already have more families signed up to help then we did last year.”
Once an individual or group has signed up, received the wish list and purchased presents, the presents can be delivered (unwrapped) to Wolfe Street Academy, 245 S. Wolfe Street (at Gough Street) on Friday, Dec. 11 between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., or on Saturday, Dec. 12, between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. (Alternate drop-off dates can be arranged, if necessary). Families will pick up their gifts on Sunday.
Local merchants including aMuse Toys in Fells Point and Ladybugs and Fireflies in Federal Hill will offer a 15 percent discount on toys purchased for children in the program, as long as the buyer brings the family’s wish list in when making purchases.
Information on the program is available on the website of www.dfba.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The website is www.dfba.org. The DFBA is also planning to expand the program in subsequent years (although not this holiday season), and is asking for suggestions of additional schools where students might be good candidates to receive presents. Suggestions can be e-mailed to the above address.
Note: The deadline to adopt a family this year is Monday, Nov. 23.
—by Mary Helen Sprecher