The gift of Christmas from one family to another
15 stockings lined the wall of the living room, marking one of the only Christmas decorations in Rachel Mata’s house. It was going to be a difficult Christmas for the Mata family — the budget was extremely tight, and it didn’t look like they were going to be able to afford any presents for any of the kids.
That’s where SVdP was able to help through its Adopt-a-Family program that offers families, community groups, office teams and others an opportunity to "adopt" a family for Christmas by purchasing a present for each family member and sponsoring a special holiday dinner for them.
A generous family was connected to Rachel so they could bring presents to make sure this year’s holiday stayed special for the Mata family.
People often tell Rachel that they can’t believe how many people they have in their house, but she says it’s always been like that for them. Rachel, 62, is the matriarch of the multigenerational household and shares a room with three of her grandchildren while her other children and grandchildren occupy the rest of the house. She said she can’t imagine her kids moving away, and that she enjoys that she’s rarely lonely.
Unfortunately, another aspect of life the Mata clan is familiar with is financial hardship. Rachel doesn’t work, two of the family’s cars are out of commission, and her kids had to take out loans just to put down a deposit for the house, which is a rental.
“They had to get credit cards so that we can make it through every month through the year,” Rachel said. “So, all their money is tied up for the bills, the rent, the credit card, loans. So there really isn't any money left for Christmas.”
The family sat down with the kids to explain the situation.
“You're probably not gonna get no gifts,” she said. “They said, ‘Okay, can you just make tamales for Christmas?’ And I go, ‘Okay, we'll make some tamales and that will be your guys Christmas gift.’ And they were happy. They were going to be happy just with that.”
Because of this hardship, Rachel has been taking the kids to SVdP’s Family Dining Room for several years. That’s where Family Evening Program Manager Cindy Bernardo saw her and told her about SVdP’s Adopt-a-Family program.
Rachel applied for her family, and they were matched with Joshua and Lorin Swift, a family that volunteers at SVdP regularly. The Swifts wish they could help more families each year.
“I mean, I think it's the least we can do, frankly. You know, we've been blessed and really fortunate to have a lot of blessings in our life,” Joshua said. “I also want to show our kids the spirit of generosity, giving, and, frankly, the privilege that they live in, and how they can give back to those who don't have enough. That's really important for us.”
So the Swifts called Rachel and got her input on what each of the kids wanted for Christmas, and on the evening of Dec. 21, they visited Rachel’s house with a Santa bag full of cheer! They had gifts for each of the children as well as the adults.
The younger kids were bouncing with excitement, and the whole family helped to unload the Swifts’ truck and decorate their living room with the presents. One of the kids sat on the couch next to the pile of gifts and just took the sight in.
Each kid wanted something different. Angelo, a junior in high school, asked for cool clothing. Uriah, who is around 10, figured he would get coal, but nonetheless wanted a trip to Florida to meet his favorite YouTubers for Christmas.
Rachel was most happy to see the joy on the children's faces when they found out they were getting a Christmas after all.
“They were ecstatic,” she said. “When I told them… they were so, so happy.”
On delivery day, the kids didn’t know what awaited them in the packages, as they saved them to open on Christmas morning. So as you read this, the Mata family is just finding out what “Santa” brought down the chimney for them.
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