Each November we request a family of 4 to "adopt" for the holidays. Each year we have been given 2 families, a mom with a young daughter. We learn a bit about them-ages of the children, clothing sizes, their goals for their futures, most needed gift items, etc. We learn which grocery stores are near them, which movie theater are convenient, what activities they like to do as a family.
Then, the 7 of us get to work. My daughter Susan hits Costco for household items (a rice cooker, pots & pans, bath towels) and movie tickets. Daughter Elizabeth heads to local shops in the San Carlos and Redwood City areas, looking for special treats. Our 12-year old delights in shopping for toys for the little ones (this year ages 2 and 5) with her sister, Rachael. Rachael puts her sense of style to good use choosing clothing items. Gene and I enjoy walking around town, getting gift cards to the Academy of Sciences and the Exploratorium, a gift card to a Vietnamese restaurant for one and to Red Lobster for another, grocery cards for both, and a gift card to a requested department store (Macy's, Ross, Forever 21) and a few special items for the moms. Susan's husband, Gary, pitches in too.
By early December we're ready to host our Holiday Gift Wrapping Party. The Christmas decorations are up, the music is playing, a finger-food buffet is out. Rolls of wrapping paper and boxes of bows await, and it begins. Lots of laughter and smiles while the 7 of us wrap, decorate, and tag the gifts, taking great care to keep each family's presents in their own pile.
In less than 2 hours the house was transformed into a spot of beauty, and our hearts happy. The next morning we loaded the car and dropped off the gifts, ready to be picked up by the families.
The Adopt-a-Family program is completed for 2013, but the assistance provided to struggling San Francisco families by Compass Family Services continues year round through 7 unique programs geared to helping families become stabilized and self-sufficient.
San Franciscans (and nearby family) helping San Franciscans - my favorite new tradition.