VISTA — The holidays are rapidly approaching and good Samaritans are ramping up their efforts to help those in need.
The Boys & Girls Club of Vista is no different and is in the midst of its Adopt-A-Family program. Benefactors receive a wish list from a family in need and also have the opportunity to provide a gift card for the family’s holiday meal.
The club is also in need of volunteer support for its holiday activities as well as gifts for 150 members ages 5 to 18. Each year the club hosts a holiday celebration where youngsters share a meal together and take home a gift from Santa.
“The holidays can be very stressful for a lot of the Boys & Girls Club families,” club CEO Matt Koumaras said. “All kids deserve to be happy and cared for this holiday season. I encourage you to help spread holiday cheer while creating special memories for some fantastic kids and their hardworking families. This Adopt-a-Family program is a very rewarding way to get families engaged in community outreach and show our neighbors that we care.”
Ellen Clark, the club’s director of development, said the program started four years ago as a way to assist its members, their families and those outside the club during the holidays. While the program is growing and serves about 25 families per year, Clark said it will likely grow with more awareness from the community.
Those who participate “adopt” a family and receive a wish list, she added. Each family members requests two items — one practical and one fun; such as a sweater and a toy for kids. Additionally, sponsors also pass out gift cards for a meal to local establishments.
“It’s a growing program,” Clark said. “Based on the number of sponsors and families, we’d love to support more.”
The club serves more about 2,800 kids per year, she added, noting about 1,200 are served directly through the club. In addition, about 130 kids enjoy the club for after-school programming. The cost is $50 for the year, Clark said.
Clark said the income level for families of 83% of the kids who attend the club is at low or moderate levels. Also, 36% of family’s income level is at $25,000 or lower, she added.
“If you can imagine raising a family in North County with that kind of income, you can see why we provide a program like this,” Clark explained.
She said the program is steadily growing and individuals return to volunteer due to their connections with the kids and willingness to help those in need.
“This program is relatively organic,” Clark added. “Obviously, we’d love the need to not grow the program, but we are definitely trying to touch a larger percentage of families that are struggling.”
Registration is open until just before Thanksgiving, although Clark said since the operation is still small, the club may be flexible with volunteers on a case-by-case basis.