Archer’s annual Adopt-a-Family reminds the community to celebrate the holiday’s true meaning.
Adopt-A-Family, a program centered at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles, has been helping families on Skid Row for 23 years. The program interviews these families about their household and individual needs. Volunteers sign up to “adopt” these families and donate everyday essentials such as a microwave, an iron, or a bed. In addition to big ticket items such as those, they also offer smaller gifts that can bring just as much joy, such as that scooter or coloring book they’ve always wanted.
A lot happens from the organization to the delivery. Archer’s Community Service Board (CSB)—made up of students and advisers James Russo and Sarah Martin—plans and organizes Archer’s involvement with the event. This year’s delivery date was Saturday, Dec. 14.
From roughly August to October, bilingual volunteers interview possible adoptee families. Many of the families live in apartment buildings without their own bathroom or kitchen, having to share one down the hall with other tenants. These families have other priorities than gifts in mind during the holidays, like paying bills. The services that Adopt-A-Family provides can make a big difference in the quality of these families’ holidays.
Adopt-A-Family produces a contagious uplifting need to fulfill the kids’ and families’ wishes which Archer certainly caught, but how did Adopt-A-Family come to Archer?
In 2001, a sixth grader named Emily Ibarra ’09 had the tradition of “adopting a family” with her own family, and she decided to introduce the program to Archer. Judey Petix, the former director of Archer’s CSB and still a devoted member of the board, says she helped Ibarra to promote the program and in its first year, one family was adopted. The next year, two families were adopted and finally, in the third year, each grade adopted their own family as well as faculty and staff who had their own.
This program brings smiles to the faces of many underprivileged families and it provides the volunteers with overwhelming joy. As Petix said, “Seeing that light is better than any gift you’ll ever get this holiday season.”
Many small things are key to the organization and planning of Adopt-A-Family, such as assigning a family to each grade and coordinating who signs up to bring gifts. The CSB works hard to manage the logistics of the process.
Students and faculty used to sign up by writing their name next to something on the family’s list, which posted in the front hallway.
However, some changes came along with technology. This year the families’ wish lists were on an online Google Doc, which provided each grade with shared access to their family’s wish list.
Another change this year was the addition of a ninth family. Each grade and the faculty/staff still adopted their own family, but Archer Alumnae also had their own family this year, keeping the tradition alive even outside of the walls of Archer.
After a couple of weeks of bringing gifts to the front hallway, where big brown boxes that held the gifts sit, the Archer students became elves at the gift-wrapping workshops after school. This year, there were three days of gift wrapping, Dec. 9-11. On Dec. 12, a Staples truck came onto campus to pick up the boxes and take them to the Cathedral for Delivery Day.
Delivery Day began at 6:30 a.m. when cars pulled into the large Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angel’s parking lot. Donuts and coffee were served, and a small “blessing of the volunteers” service began when the hundreds of volunteers—not of any specific religion, simply joined with the universal need to help out—came together. Afterwards, the cars lined up and a family’s address, gift boxes and two food boxes were given to each car to personally deliver to each assigned family. However, some family gifts were a bit large; in that case, two cars went together to deliver to the families. The day wrapped up around noon.
Every year, the entire process provides a heartwarming takeaway. As Petix said, “It signifies not only that winter vacation is almost here, but more importantly, it’s a tangible example of how Archer’s generosity overflows.”
Featured Image: Archer’s front hallway full of gifts. Photographer: Kayry Gonzalez ’16