The best part of Adopt a Family for the Holidays started today. Growing Up Healthy's Fatima Ponciano, Faribault Police -- including Chief John Sherwin -- and I delivered gifts to families adopted by donors. It was as heartwarming as it was heartbreaking. On the one hand, we were greeted with excited smiles from children who were home from school today because of the weather. They got to hold packages just for them and try to figure out what treasures might be inside. They got the gift of anticipation.
Today's journey was also a hard look at our community. As I traveled from apartment to trailer to house, I heard about some of the hardships faced -- a family that can't pay its utility bills and, despite the cold weather, experienced having electricity and gas turned off for several hours. A family with a child who needs a $2,000 surgery for a heart defect and can't afford it.
If you gave to United Way this year, you are helping these families.
To pull off Adopt a Family, United Way partner agency Growing Up Healthy worked tirelessly with the Faribault Police, the CAC, the Faribault Schools and others to identify families experiencing the greatest hardship. United Way raised $5,000 for children's gifts from their own wish lists and for gift cards to go to parents, totaling more than $200 per family. Allina Health and an individual family adopted their own families, too, by partnering with us. In all, we were able to adopt 25 families for the holidays in Rice County.
I learned that our donations not only deliver gifts, they bring community together. Chief Sherwin told me it was great to get to visit families over something so positive when most often interactions are over something negative. Without this program, I would not have met such grateful neighbors. Nor would I have learned more about the people United Way and our agencies serve. Adopt a Family is not only creating holiday celebrations, it is creating connections.