02/11/2013—Christmas 'Matchmakers' Link Up Donors with Families in Need

Christmas trees and holiday decorations are packed away by this time of the year, but did you know that for hundreds of Arizona families, Christmas would not have been possible without the help of four volunteers?

Dottie Sullivan has been coordinating St. Vincent de Paul’s Adopt-a-Family program for the last five years. The program allows individuals and families to “adopt” families in need by providing Christmas gifts and meals. It’s a program that has become a Christmas tradition for hundreds of families in Arizona and many times lifelong friendships are formed through the process.

Families who need help are first connected through their local SVdP food pantry, also called conferences. The conference volunteers, called Vincentians, visit the families to bring them emergency food boxes and also to gather information for the Adopt-a-Family program. The age and needs of each family member is recorded so that adopters know what types to gifts to get.

All of these family profiles then go to Dottie, who has the tedious task of matching them up with adopters.

“There are a lot factors to consider, like location, ages of kids and the size of the family. My goal every year is to make sure that families are matched up appropriately so that it’s a good experience for everyone,” Dottie said.

This year, three new volunteers helped Dottie with the intake process. Lauri Curran, Marti Engebretsen and Lola Espriella worked tirelessly for two weeks before Christmas to take calls from families wishing to adopt.

“Sometimes people want to adopt families with kids who are similar in age to their own so that their kids can help pick out the presents,” said Lauri. “I think it’s great that families want to do this together.”

Thanks to their efforts, more than 400 families were adopted last year, about 100 more than the year before. Many of the families adopted were working single moms who just don’t make enough to make ends meet, let alone have enough to buy Christmas presents for their kids.

“The real heavy lifters are the Vincentians and families adopting,” Dottie said. “We were just behind the scenes getting them connected to make Christmas happen for everyone.”

Lola, Marti and Lauri helped connect adopters to the Adopt-a-Family program so that more than 400 families in need received gifts and meals for Christmas.

Want to make a difference in your community? Volunteer with us! Many opportunities are available, including food preparation in our kitchen, sorting donations in our thrift stores and even out-of-the-box opportunities like coordinating the Adopt-a-Family program. Fill out a volunteer application here or call our volunteer office at 602.261.6886.