SAN BERNARDINO -- “The breadwinner may have lost a job, there may simply be more children than the parents can financially support this time of year; or perhaps the family has faced a debilitating death of one of the parents. Whatever problem causes the disruption or the ceasing of Christmas plans, our Adopt-A-Family program is here to help,” says Major Steve Ball of The Salvation Army’s San Bernardino Corps.
The San Bernardino Corps of The Salvation Army at 746 West Fifth Street will bring much needed support to struggling families this holiday season.
Families living in The Salvation Army’s service area of San Bernardino, Colton, Rialto, Highland, Grand Terrace, Bloomington and who consider themselves “in need” this holiday season can come to The Salvation Army for help. “Families with exceptional need are identified by our staff and may be included in the Adopt-A-Family program to receive special assistance.” says Major Ball.
In early November families apply to the Salvation Army branch nearest them, making known their need for assistance. These families will receive a Food and Toy Box consisting of non-perishable food and gifts for all children age 0 - 12. If a family is identified as having exceptional need, and an adopting sponsor is found, then they are entered into the Adopt-a-Family program.
Other families, businesses or groups then choose to “adopt” a family. “We’ve had numerous cases,” Major Ball explains, “where organizations will ‘adopt’ more than one family, just to contribute to helping others who are in difficult times have happier family holidays.”
There have been cases when the adopting group will invest several hundreds of dollars or more in a family. “There’ll be Christmas gifts and food,” Major Ball says, “but we’ve seen instances where home repairs have been covered, where new clothes have been furnished, where the family’s only car was made functional again. One adopting group even bought its newly-adopted friends a much needed refrigerator.”
According to Major Ball, the whole idea, however, is to assist, not overwhelm. It’s just a matter of “whatever it takes” to aid their selected family in getting past the otherwise stressful season. Maybe it’s simply food that’s needed, perhaps it’s bedding that’s lacking during our cold winters, it might be traveling to a family member in serious need. Or maybe it’s a bag full of toys and stuffed animals for the family’s children.
Families that have “adopted” others have created lifelong friendships with those people, even helping an adult or teen land a job that turned their circumstances around. “We’ve had a family we’ve known for years,” says a woman whose family has “adopted” others annually. “There’s no longer a need for yearly assistance, but we enjoy them and want to stay in touch.”
“Adopting a family this holiday season doesn’t mean taking on responsibilities or shouldering a burden,” Major Ball explains. “It’s truly sharing the Christmas spirit with others who may not be as fortunate as you. It’s helping families to enjoy the holidays like the rest of us do, lending a hand when it’s needed.”
Elaine McFadden received Adopt-A-Family services as a single mother on welfare. “You have to believe that there are people out there like The Salvation Army that will help you,” said McFadden.
Living on the verge of homelessness, McFadden needed a place to stay with her two children while she was attending classes at Riverside City College. Her lifelong friend Sabrina suggested that McFadden visit The Salvation Army for help.
The Salvation Army’s Adopt-a-Family sponsor provided McFadden money to use as a deposit to move into a new home. During Christmas The Salvation Army invited McFadden and her children to visit a toy store, where her children were able to choose Christmas presents. “My children would not have gotten toys for Christmas without program,” said McFadden.
McFadden was surprised one year when The Salvation Army told her “You’ve been adopted.” A local family had purchased gifts for McFadden and her children during Christmas. “Just to have all those presents under the tree were great,” said McFadden.
McFadden’s life has improved. She attended Loma Linda University to study nutrition and become a registered dietitian. McFadden later received her Master’s degree in Public Health Promotion and Education. McFadden realized most people were unaware of the changes that had been happening to our food system and how those changes could critically impact health.
McFadden now hosts her own radio show, Smart Health Talk, every Thursday 4:00-5:00 pm on KCAA NBC News Radio 1050 AM. “Nutrition is my ministry,” said McFadden. Smart Health Talk teaches people the importance of eating healthy, organic food. “When you start putting quality food in your body, you start being a role model to children and the community,” said McFadden.
McFadden’s children have found their own success. McFadden’s daughter, Ashley, works as a General Manager for Glen Ivy Resort. McFadden’s son, Brian, will be attending UC Berkeley to receive his Ph.D. in Philosophy. “I was able to break a cycle of poverty in my family,” said McFadden. “You have to fight for a better life.”
Willing to adopt a family? Know of a family in need? Call the San Bernardino office of the Salvation Army at (909) 888-1336 and ask them to sign you up.