Nov. 21, 2014 – The Kinette Club of Calgary will help more than 170 families in need celebrate Christmas with their 2014 Adopt-a-Family program.

The program, once run by the City of Calgary and offered to the Calgary Kinettes in 2005, provides holiday hampers for families who find themselves unable to provide for basic needs at Christmas.

“We take referrals from agencies and counsellors for families that match our criteria,” said Adopt-a-Family co-chair Rhonda Ronaldson.

“They must meet our low-income requirement, their wish list should include necessities and demonstrate need, and they must be a family, meaning that there are children.”

Families are also not eligible if they have received a hamper within the previous three years.

Sara Doruch, middle school family connector with Calgary Family Services, has referred 20 to 30 families to the program each Christmas for the past three years.

Doruch applies to the program on behalf of families with students who attend one of the three middle schools she oversees.

“I love that anyone can access the program, not like some of the other organization-specific Adopt-a-Families [in Calgary],” said Doruch.

“The Kinette program is so well-run, and I love that they’re really focused on practical things, like providing grocery and clothing support.

“I think it’s an amazing program, and I’m always happy when my families’ applications have been approved.”

If an application meets the requirements and is accepted by the Adopt-a-Family committee, then the family is matched with a program donor.

“We have a lot of generous donors who take on families,” said Ronaldson.

Program donors shop for the family they have been assigned based on each family’s specific list of needs, and deliver their gifts to the Calgary Kinettes during the ‘hamper weekend,’ which takes place at the beginning of December.

This year’s Adopt-a-Family weekend will take place on Dec. 6 and 7 at the Stampede grounds.

“Donors will drop off everything on Saturday, and then families can pick up their hampers on Sunday,” said Dani Savell, past Adopt-a-Family chair.

“A number of our Kin family join us to work that weekend. We rely heavily on our volunteers.”

Members of Kinsmen and Kinette clubs from the area help to wrap gifts, identify incomplete hampers, and assemble packages for families to pick up.

As many of the families in need of help cannot drive to collect their goods, the Kinette Club of Calgary offers assistance with transportation.

“We can’t physically deliver all of the hampers, because it would be too much,” said Ronaldson.

“But if a family can get to us, whether by bus or the C-train, then we will pay for them to go home in a cab with their hamper.”

The Adopt-a-Family committee also shops for families, providing hampers for any applicants who have not been matched with a donor.

“Our club probably helps between 15 or 20 every year ourselves,” said Savell.

“The committee will shop from our inventory first, and then supplement the hampers with anything that is missing.”

The Adopt-a-Family inventory is housed in a storage locker, and includes a number of items ranging from linens and clothing of various sizes to toys and games that have been purchased at bargain prices throughout the year.

“We have been fortunate to make some great partnerships along the way,” said committee member Darlene Morris.

“We get our storage locker at a reduced rate, we get great deals at stores, and we get money donated from other clubs.”

The Adopt-a-Family program has witnessed a number of situations its committee members can only describe as “heartbreaking.”

“It opens your eyes to what people are living through every single day,” said Ronaldson.

“Unfortunately, the reality is that people’s situations can change very quickly, and there will always be the need for a program like this one,” Savell said.

With the continued generosity of private and corporate donors, and the help of a strong volunteer base, the Kinette Club of Calgary looks forward to providing Christmas joy to Calgarian families in need for generations to come.

“The feeling of that hamper weekend is like nothing else,” said Morris.

“There’s nothing under your own Christmas tree that can compare.”