The underlying message of the Neighborhood is that if somebody cares about you, it's possible that you'll care about others.
In its eighth year of “adopting” families for the holidays, the Department of English at ASU has set a record by helping eight families.
CARE, an ad-hoc, voluntary committee comprised of staff, faculty, and graduate students in the Department of English, assisted the families through a group effort.
Individual members of the department shopped, wrapped, and delivered presents for two of the families. The other six families were adopted by the committee at-large.
I serve as a liaison with the St. Vincent de Paul Society at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and referred the families to the committee. St. Vincent de Paul is a charitable, non-profit organization that provides food as well as rental and utility assistance to needy families in Tempe throughout the year.
Under the leadership of Karen Dwyer, chair of English’s CARE committee, the process of adopting those families began in November. Using funds donated by department members throughout December, our dedicated shoppers had fun selecting gifts for 33 individuals. The oldest adult was a 65-year-old grandmother, and children ranged from age 14 to two months.
Others in the department donated boxes, wrapping paper, bows, ribbons, candy canes, and gift tags, and on December 20, committee members gathered for a gift-wrapping “party.”
For each adult, there was a clothing item, and for each child, a clothing item and a toy. It was fun to see the sparkly pants, earmuffs, WWE action figures, dinosaurs, scooters, Legos, Barbie dolls, and fluffy slime. Thanks to all those who participated, it took just 90 minutes to wrap all the gifts.
Then came the real fun: delivering the gifts to the families. At 2:00 pm on Saturday, December 22, CARE members met at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church at 2121 S. Rural Road to load up the gifts and pack food boxes—including a turkey for each family—from the St. Vincent de Paul Society pantry. In a convoy of six cars, the delivery team drove to meet the families who had been previously notified to expect visitors. Some ASU English members brought their children, who seemed to enjoy thoroughly carrying the gifts into the homes and placing them under Christmas trees or in the hands of waiting children and adults.
The mother of the two-month-old baby was sitting outside waiting on the porch. She had tears in her eyes. “I cannot thank you enough,” she said. “I cannot tell you how much this means for me.”
The grandmother shared that she works at ASU in a cafeteria kitchen and was awaiting a major surgery in January. During winter break, she does not get enough hours at her work and has a hard time keeping food on the table for the four grandchildren in her charge.
The caravan also delivered gifts to two families in a mobile home park. Outside, many trailers were in disrepair; however, inside, the lights on the Christmas trees and the colorful decorations reflected the joy and the hopeful and resilient spirit of the homes’ inhabitants.
All of the people served in the Adopt-A-Family program seemed extremely thankful for the gifts. Reaching out to the community also brought faculty and staff of the English department closer together. All members of the department are invited to join in this rewarding and heart-warming project (again) next year.
Image 1: Karen Dwyer (right) and the author, Adelheid Thieme (left) packing food boxes in the St. Vincent de Paul Society's pantry at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church. Photo courtesy Thieme.
Image 2: Department of English faculty, staff, and students (with their children) delivering holiday presents to "adopted" families. Photo courtesy Thieme.