As temperatures drop, work piles on, and the semester winds to a close, it’s easy to forget to be thankful. The holidays can often be looked at as an added stress instead of as a time of selflessness and celebration.
Springfield College’s Adopt-a-Family program, however, is a chance for students to be selfless and to give to those in need. The program, now in its fourteenth year, is being run by Springfield’s Director of Spiritual Life, David McMahon, and Christina Cetti.
“We use it as an opportunity for members of the College community to give back to those in the broader Springfield community,” McMahon said. “This year, as we have for the past several years, we’re partnering with the Open Pantry teen parenting program.”
The Open Pantry, a local charitable organization, provides food to those in need, as well as supports teens and victims of abuse. McMahon described the teen parenting program as a program that focuses on teen mothers and fathers who are finishing up high school, going on to college, or seeking employment.
“Why we like to work with them,” McMahon said, “especially around [the Adopt-a-Family program], is because everyone wants the same thing around the holidays. They want to be with family, they want to feel good, they want to feel special, and they want to have special presents. Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukah or whatever you celebrate, everyone wants that special day where you wake up and feel like your kids are the center of attention, and they get to open up presents and be happy.”
Students looking to participate in the Adopt-a-Family program can work with others to buy gifts for families associated with the program.
A link on the PrideNet homepage provides a description of the event, as well as a chance for students to sign up. The register to deadline is Nov. 28, the day after Thanksgiving.
“Overall, there a couple hundred people who participate in one way or another,” McMahon said of the program in past years. “Sometimes it’ll be teams that get together and adopt a family and go shopping together. Sometimes it’s a residence hall or club or organization. Other times, it’s just two or three people who get together.”
According to McMahon, the Open Pantry will give the College a sense of how many people are either in the teen living program or who have just transitioned to living independently. The Pantry will provide the names and ages of those within the program. Students then buy gifts or donate new items in good condition for members of their families.
“Because we try to personalize it as much as we can, the parents will often right ‘really likes music,’ or, ‘really likes books,’” McMahon said. “[Parents] will sometimes give us themes [for gifts]. It helps us on this end, the people adopting the families, to make it personal so the kids feel that this is coming to them and that someone shopped for them.
McMahon said that faculty and staff from different departments often participate. This year, Adopt-a-Family will have additional support from another on-campus group, the Leadership Training Conference.
“This year, the LTC is also sponsoring Giving Tuesday,” McMahon said. “Part of the proceeds that they’re generating from various activities are going to Adopt-a-Family as well. Anyone who is participating in that is, in a sense, participating in Adopt-a-Family.”
Giving Tuesday follows the trend of the days following Thanksgiving, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The LTC’s Facebook page describes the day as a global event in which people “come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.”
The recipients of the gifts, MacMahon said, often show their appreciation for what they’ve received.
“They’re always so grateful and so thankful for whatever it is that we can provide them,” McMahon said. “For a lot of these children, this is what makes a difference for their holidays. They feel that they actually get real presents. Whatever their background, whatever struggles they’ve had getting to that day, that day is special for them.”