Nonprofits hope for generosity this time of year

About 95 families have signed up with annual Adopt-A-Family program

Posted: Friday, December 05, 2003

Juneau's nonprofit organizations hope residents have generosity to spare this holiday season.

"Most of the people, you could categorize them as the working poor," said Sebastian Lilienthal, who is organizing the St. Vincent de Paul Society's Adopt-A-Family program this year. "They do have a place, they do live somewhere, but they just make it from month to month. Christmas is like an additional thing that is really hard for them."

The annual Adopt-A-Family program pairs individuals, businesses and families who have the time and income to buy extra Christmas presents for families who can't afford gifts.

As of Wednesday, about 95 families had signed up to receive gifts through the program. Lilienthal, a volunteer with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, expects about 130 families to sign up by the Dec. 12 deadline.

Sponsors can choose to sponsor a family with as few as two people, or as many as 10. Employees at Bartlett Regional Hospital are sponsoring a foster home with 19 children, Lilienthal said.

Most sponsors spend about $30 per family member. St. Vincent de Paul provides sponsors with the age, gender, shoe and clothing sizes, and wish lists of those being sponsored.

The deadline is Dec. 20 for delivering gifts either directly to the families or to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Lilienthal said.

Women and children who have been victims of domestic violence and clients of the AWARE shelter during the past year are the beneficiaries of another adopt-a-family program this year.

"We see a wide, wide variety of needs, from grandmas to single moms to moms that are working, moms who are going to school - just skimping by, from month to month," said JoAnn Hanson, shelter service manager of AWARE. "We're taking a little bit of the burden off of them."

As with the St. Vincent de Paul program, sponsors of families at the AWARE shelter are given a list of wants and needs of the adoptees.

But the shelter encourages gifts like movie, skate and swim passes, and gas cards for mothers, Hanson said.

"We try to promote things that will get families to do things together," she said.

Twenty-one families have signed up to be sponsored so far this year. Gifts for the families can be dropped off at the shelter from Dec. 18-21.

Those looking for a simpler way to give can spend $10 or more on a Christmas present and drop it off, unwrapped, at several Great Alaskan Toy Drive sites in town.

The fifth annual Great Alaskan Toy Drive, organized primarily by Michelle Shaw of the radio station TAKU 105 and the Alaska Army National Guard, hopes to provide more than 1,000 Christmas gifts to local children this year.

With the craziness and insecurity in the world today, said Sgt. Andy Swanston, members of the Alaska Army National Guard are happy to make a positive local impact this holiday season.

"This is something that people can do that actually stays within the confines of Juneau and some surrounding rural communities, so you're actually helping your neighbor," Swanston said.

All eight full-time members of the National Guard in Juneau are volunteering to pick up gifts at the drop-off sites around town, which include both McDonald's restaurants, Costco, Susan's Hallmark in the Nugget Mall, and Alaskan and Proud.

Gastineau Human Services, which stores the gifts during the season, will organize and distribute them to local organizations before Christmas, Shaw said.

The Glory Hole also is seeking gifts of the more practical sort.

"We're looking for hats and gloves and wool socks, boots if someone wants to spring for them," said Jetta Whittaker, executive director of the downtown Juneau homeless shelter.

"Flannel shirts, warm sweaters, sweatshirts ... just really practical, economical gifts," she said. People can drop off unwrapped gifts at the Glory Hole before Dec. 15. The gifts will be distributed at the shelter's Christmas party on Dec. 21.

• Christine Schmid can be reached at

How to find more information on giving this season:

• St. Vincent de Paul Society's Adopt-A-Family program, contact Sebastian Lilienthal at 789-5535, ext. 11.

• AWARE Adopt-A-Family program, contact JoAnn Hanson at 586-6623.

•Great Alaskan Toy Drive, contact Michelle Shaw at TAKU 105, 586-3630.

• The Glory Hole, contact Jetta Whittaker at 586-4159.

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