Tina Ortutay

Tina Ortutay

Adopt-A-Family provides Christmas for families in Chilliwack

For more than 20 years, the Salvation Army's Adopt-A-Family program has helped spread a little Christmas joy in Chilliwack.

Christmas is about families and giving; it’s about caring and thinking of others.

This year the Chilliwack Salvation Army is asking the community to do just that and sponsor a family as part of its Adopt-A-Family program.

“Adopt-A-Family is a program that allows individuals or companies in Chilliwack to sponsor a needy family,” says Tina Ortutay, program coordinator. “They provide food and gifts, plus a $25 turkey voucher. They provide Christmas for that family.”

People and companies can sponsor families of different sizes and/or multiple families. A family with one child costs approximately $160 to sponsor, families with two children are $200, three are $245, and four or more are $285 and up.

The Salvation Army will provide sponsors with a family profile, kids’ ages, gift suggestions, and a list of food items. The sponsors are then responsible for purchasing the food and gifts, making a $25 donation for the turkey voucher, and bringing the items to the Salvation Army Church on Dec. 17, 18 or 19.

Anyone who wants to sponsor a family is welcome to do so. No one will be turned away.

The program has been in Chilliwack for more than 20 years and each year hundreds of families are sponsored. Last year it was a total of 238 families, and this year they are hoping to help out 250 families. The majority of the sponsors are corporate, but at least one third are individuals or families.

Every year the local Salvation Army gives out 1,700 Christmas food hampers containing everything needed for a holiday dinner.

“If the Christmas hamper program wasn’t supported by community, it would cost us up to $70,000,” says Ian Pratt, community ministries coordinator for Chilliwack Salvation Army.

“The Adopt-A-Family program helps the Salvation Army out because it helps to remove some of the financial burden of the 1,700 hampers,” says Ortutay.

All of the families who apply, and qualify, for a Christmas hamper then go through a filtering process for Adopt-A-Family. The Sally Ann figures out which families have not been previously sponsored and will match as many needy families with sponsors as best they can.

Anyone applying for a Christmas hamper (individuals and families) must fill out an application form at Christmas Central, located at 45892 Wellington Ave. (entrance is through the back door, off the courthouse parking lot). The application process begins Tuesday, Nov. 13 and ends Friday, Dec. 7. Hours are Monday to Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (closed noon to 1 p.m.). Applicants must provide proof of income, proof of residence in Chilliwack, picture ID for applicant, and Care Cards for every member of their household.

Shortly after the Dec. 7 application deadline, sponsors are given the necessary info on the family they have been matched with.

“We try to get as much info as possible from the applicant,” says Ortutay.

The more info they have — such as how many kids are in the family, what the ages of the kids are, what they like, and what their favourite colours are — the easier it is for the sponsors to shop for gifts geared towards that family.

Some of the people working at the Salvation Army take part in Adopt-A-Family themselves, and since they know some of the clients firsthand, both the sponsors and the applicants remain anonymous.

“The people who receive the hampers deserve their privacy, as do the sponsors,” says Ortutay. “Putting anonymity on both sides brings out the true meaning of Christmas.”

One sponsor and her husband have been taking part in Adopt-A-Family for more than 10 years. For them, it’s their way of providing Christmas to another family now that their children have left the house.

“Working here (at the Salvation Army), you see people who really need stuff. I don’t buy for my kids anymore because they’re grown up, but I’m still a mom and Christmas is big for us. I want someone to have Christmas,” says the anonymous sponsor.

Not everyone can afford to adopt a family, but people can help in other ways such as donating money and food for the hundreds of Christmas hampers.

If people would like to participate in the Adopt-A-Family program, but cannot afford to adopt a family, there’s another option — the Top-Up program.

“We always need the top-ups, like gift cards, toys, and extra food,” says Pratt.

These items are added to the Adopt-A-Family hampers in case a sponsor forgets an item or is short on gifts or food.

And although it’s a lot of work — for more than two months the Salvation Army is focussed almost entirely on Christmas — Ortutay says it’s worth it.

“All the work leading up to it, when the families start coming in weeping and thanking us, makes everything worth while,” she says.

Those interested in sponsoring a family can call the Salvation Army Care and Share Centre at 604-792-0001 and get an application form faxed to them. A downloadable version of the form is also available at www.salvationarmychilliwack.ca.