Offices celebrate the season by giving

Posted: Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Food will be shared and Christmas music will chime in the background, but staff at public radio station KTOO will be wrapping gifts instead of opening them.

KTOO staff are donating time and money to the Adopt-A-Family program at the St. Vincent de Paul Society. At the station holiday party Thursday, about 20 staff members will wrap and label gifts and make cards for their adopted family of 10, said Cheryl Levitt, development director for KTOO.

Many of the needy families who enroll in one of the three Adopt-A-Family programs in town - at St. Vincent de Paul, the AWARE shelter or the Salvation Army - are adopted for the holidays by offices or businesses.

Ten of the 20 families adopted through the Salvation Army this Christmas have been adopted by offices, said Maj. Nila Fankhauser. Co-workers sometimes adopt families in conjunction with a Christmas party, or they forgo the party and adopt a family instead.

"I think it's just a way of them helping in the community," Fankhauser said. "I just had a lady come in and they said (her office) had so much fun doing it."

Thirty-two of the 70 families adopted through the St. Vincent de Paul Society so far this year were adopted by offices, said Sebastian Lilienthal, an aid administrator for the nonprofit organization. The offices provide a consistent source of donations for the program.

"We send out a letter to offices that have donated in the past reminding them and usually every single one of them responds," Lilienthal said.

Employees of the Research and Analysis section of the Alaska Department of Labor have adopted a family every year for at least the last seven years, said Amy Soden, who is helping organize the effort this year.

Most of the 40 employees in the office either buy a gift for the office's adopted family or donate money for a holiday food basket for the family, Soden said.

Mostly the co-workers participate because they enjoy sharing in the holiday spirit, Soden said. But the adopted families may reap the rewards of some friendly intra-office competition.

"I don't really think it's peer pressure, but I know there's a couple people who like to see how good of gifts they can get," she said.

Co-workers who pool their resources can make more of an impact on the community, said Becky Weimer, a legal assistant with Faulkner Banfield. She helped organize the 16 employees of the law firm to buy holiday presents for a family of six.

Employees of Faulkner Banfield choose which family member they'd like to buy presents for. Weimer creates a spreadsheet to make sure every family member is taken care of, then collects the wrapped presents.

With 10 days left before Christmas, the St. Vincent de Paul Society has 30 families waiting to be adopted. The AWARE shelter has found sponsors for 23 families and is looking for sponsors for four remaining families. Presents must be brought to the shelter by Dec. 21 and to the St. Vincent de Paul Society by Dec. 20.

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