BATAVIA – The people of Batavia opened their hearts wide to help a record number of children through the Adopt A Family holiday campaign, which ensures that kids in need will receive Christmas gifts.
Volunteers sorted table after table of gifts Dec. 12 at Louise White Elementary School in the effort coordinated by Batavia United Way, whose executive director, Melinda Kintz, said this year's project will help 266 children in 114 families, up from 98 families in 2016. They are selected by Batavia School District 101 counselors who help put together their personal wish lists. Organizations, businesses and individuals pitch in to make their wishes come true.
"All of our partners making this happen are just incredible," said Amy Nelson, the school district's community outreach coordinator.
She said the campaign is meant to help families who may be homeless or in crisis.
"We all go through hard times," Nelson said of the impetus to lend a hand to others in need. "Melinda [does] a phenomenal job getting community support and donations."
Kintz said each child receives an array of gifts from clothing to gift cards. She said some children asked for shoes and boots, and one mom put in a special request for a bed.
When Kintz this fall announced the need for underwear and socks, the Batavia Lions Club came up with its debut Underwear Party fundraiser, and Fox Valley Presbyterian Church of Geneva created an "undy Sunday," she said. Their efforts resulted in a whopping 2,000 items.
She emphasized how many individuals, clubs and businesses take part in Adopt A Family, adding that every school had a counselor at the Dec. 12 event to help organize the gifts.
Taking part was Corey Bernard, a counselor at the high school, who said the Adopt A Family program has grown substantially. At the high school, it expanded from five or eight families to close to 30 this year. She praised the efforts of all the people reaching out to help.
"It's wonderful to be in a supportive community like this," she said.
She called the project her "feel good" for the holidays, "something I need to do for myself."
The tables were filled with such items as colorfully patterned pajamas, bed comforters and toys ranging from a dump truck to a Barbie and Ken doll set.
Nelson said the Batavia Woman's Club had put together stockings filled with donated toiletries, and CHIP IN Batavia would provide grocery items and household staples when families arrived Dec. 14 to pick up the gifts for their children. They also could select wrapping paper to make the final touches perfect.
[SIDEBAR] Oh, Christmas tree
BATAVIA – Abbey Farms approached CHIP IN Batavia with its proposal for a new project to brighten the holidays for families in need.
Giving trees to families struggling to make ends meet was the suggestion of Jackie Rakers, Abbey Farms educational programs and volunteer coordinator, who spearheaded the effort, said Adam Voirin, chief operating officer at Abbey Farms in Aurora. He said five Batavia families were helped, as well as the Mutual Ground domestic violence shelter in Aurora, where displaced families will spend Christmas and could use a "feel of home."
"[Jackie thought] what a wonderful way to bring Christmas to those who might not have the opportunity to celebrate with a Christmas tree," he said, recalling his own childhood joy at bounding downstairs to see a fresh tree. "A lot of community partners wanted to help out."
The wider support included a gift card to help purchase tree stands and tree skirts. People brought items such as stuffed animals for the children and ornaments for the trees, which were delivered Dec. 13.
Abbey Farms customers donated at the seasonal store this fall to help make it all possible, and the business also thanks The Holmstad, Batavia Enterprises, Walmart, Home Depot, the Marmion Advancement Office, Image Awards and Engraving, the Marmion swim team, Fawn Gifts, Rotolo Middle School Builder’s Club and ChristaLyn Cole. Abbey Farms is a nonprofit farm with all proceeds from events and product sales benefiting the monks of Marmion Abbey and their missions.
"It was really nice to have organizations all work together," Voirin said.
Identifying the Batavia tree recipients was Amy Nelson, community outreach coordinator for Batavia School District 101.
She said Joanne Spitz and Melinda Kintz, who co-chair CHIP IN Batavia, asked her to pick the recipients.
"I focused on [families] really going through tough times," Nelson said. "[They could] use this little symbol of hope for their holiday."