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Duo launches annual Embrace a Family holiday event

CARLSBAD — Carlsbad residents Rebecca McInnis and Risa Henshilwold are two of the hundreds of volunteers who will be participating in the Jewish Family Service of San Diego’s Embrace A Family holiday gift basket program. Getting an early holiday start, McInnis and Henshilwold have been signing up some 36 volunteer classrooms from the El Camino Creek Elementary School, where their children attend classes.
With the holidays approaching, the Jewish Family Service needs embracers for more than 300 families. The volunteers can donate new, unused toys and/or other gifts, grocery scrip or gift certificates that can be used to create packages for those who need holiday assistance. Cash donations are also greatly appreciated for last minute gift purchases for families.
In 2006, the pair organized volunteers to assist 20 families and last year served 28 families. This year they project their army of classroom volunteers will provide gift baskets for more than 30 families in need. The JFS Embrace A Family program matches families in need with individuals, families and groups in the community, who embrace these families to ensure that they have a joyous holiday celebration. Volunteers are provided with anonymous and general information on family members, including the description, gender and ages of each family member, what individual and household holiday wish list, and holiday preference (Christmas or Hanukkah). Embracers then provided such items as toys, clothing, food, gift certificates, household items, and much more. Many of these families would not celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas without this program.
McInnis and Henshilwold have been busy writing teacher and parent letters to mobilize embracers at El Camino Creek and will be decorating classrooms with posters highlighting the program.