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Adopt-a-family still helping Sydney families after more than 25 years

Diane Parlee, left, and Wanda Earhart sort through toys received at Every Woman's Centre in Sydney for its annual adopt-a-family program. Each year, the program helps about 600 families in need have a brighter holiday season.
Diane Parlee, left, and Wanda Earhart sort through toys received at Every Woman's Centre in Sydney for its annual adopt-a-family program. Each year, the program helps about 600 families in need have a brighter holiday season. - Nancy King
SYDNEY, N.S. —

A handwritten note on a piece of stationery adorned with a winter scene demonstrates the impact that a simple act of generosity can have.

“It was very difficult to write this thank-you letter because of the tears in my eyes,” the letter reads. “It was as if you knew my children as good as me. Everything you gave them was so picture perfect. It was the best gift for me to watch their happy faces.”

That letter was written by a mother whose family was assisted by Every Women’s Centre’s annual adopt-a-family program last year.

“I could not do that without your help and I thank you as a mom for giving our family the best Christmas ever.”

Another parent wrote to her family’s adopter that she wanted to thank them, “from the bottom of my heart.”

“I would like to tell you that I won’t be needing this amazing program too much longer, as I am in school to get an amazing career,” she wrote. “As soon as I am on my feet I will be donating and contributing as much as I can to all the resources I use now.”

Those are only two of the approximately 600 families touched annually by the program, which has been operating for more than 25 years.


PROFILES

Family No. 371

  • A mom and dad with two children. Andy is four years old and wears size 5. He hopes for any Power Ranger or action hero figures, or any board game. Lacy is three years old and fits size 3. She loves Barbie dolls, PlayDoh and painting kits. Mom and Dad are not asking for a gift, but we know that she wears size small PJs and he wears size large. This family does need help with Christmas dinner.

Family No. 76

  • A mom with one child. Donnie is 11 years old and wears size men’s large. He hopes for a skateboard or any Fortnight item. Mom does not ask for a gift, but we know that she wears size 3X PJs. This family does need help with Christmas dinner.

Family No. 114

  • A mom with three children. Barbara is nine years old and wears ladies size medium. She hopes for any Slime Kit or arts and crafts. Shannon is 12 years old and fits ladies size large. She would like an age-appropriate makeup kit or hair straightener. Gavin is four years old and wears size 5. He is asking Santa for any Paw Patrol or PJ Mask toys. Mom does not ask for a gift, but we know that she wears size medium. This family does need help with Christmas dinner.

Family No. 99

  • A mom with three children. Kenny is nine months old and wears size 12 months. He would be thrilled with any toy that has lights and sound. Nick is four years old and fits size 6. He hopes for any dinosaurs or Minions. Sheldon is seven years old and takes size 10. Sheldon is wishing for Minecraft or Fortnight toys. Mom does not ask for a gift but we know that she doesn’t need any clothes or PJs so maybe a bath set or some towels would be possible. This family does need help with Christmas dinner.

It began as a grassroots effort by a group of individuals who knew families in need of help so they got together to collect some money.

“It grew from there, when it became known in the community that so many people struggle,” said Wanda Earhart of Every Woman's Centre. “If people struggle throughout the year, when Christmas rolls around, of course that’s just an added burden.”

Adopt-a-family belongs to the Christmas Network, which is comprised of Every Woman's Centre, the Salvation Army and the food banks on the Northside, and parents sign a release to allow the organizations to share lists with each other in order to stand by the integrity of the programs and to ensure that as many families as possible who are in need of assistance can access it.

“The need is there, our numbers are there,” said Earhart, who co-ordinates the program.

In recent years, they’ve noticed people approaching them for assistance who have seen hours cut at work or have seen conditions within their families change and suddenly unexpectedly find themselves seeking help.

Each child is able to request a wish item, valued at a minimum of $50. As with other children, Earhart noted higher-tech items are becoming more in-demand, while others continue to ask for more traditional gifts such as dolls and games. While it may not be exciting to shop for a gift card or an iTunes card, it may be what the child wants.

“We stress to people … if they’re teenagers, that’s what they do, they play games,” she said. “It doesn’t look like much but that’s what the child is asking for.”

If the family requests it, Every Woman’s Centre Adopt-a-Family program also asks donors to provide assistance for Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. Allowing the parents the opportunity to go grocery shopping and get exactly what the family enjoys for that meal is an important component, Earhart said.

They have already done their intake for this year and are currently only taking referrals from other organizations.

For those who may have to help provide some holiday cheer for those in need, parcels will be accepted until Dec. 13. Donations are also accepted.

For more information or to request a family to adopt, contact Every Woman’s Centre at [email protected] or call 902-567-1212.

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