Lemon Line: Battling our Scrooges
Vail CO, Colorado
“Why are we giving food and presents to this family? They have a nicer house and a better car than we do.” The teen’s questions strike at the heart of the Adopt-A-Family program here in Eagle County, a part of a nationwide campaign for holiday giving organized by the Salvation Army.
Appearances can be deceiving. The husband and sole bread winner walked out on his family of five, leaving his stay-at-home wife with no savings, no income, and no way to care for her children. The car was being repossessed and the house was in foreclosure proceedings. The small act of kindness ” two presents per family member and food for the holidays ” performed by the teen’s family brought tears of joy to the face of the struggling mother.
So what? The Scrooge in all of us challenges what a few small gifts and canned food can actually do for this family. It will not keep the bank from repossessing the house. It will not stop the foreclosure.
So, why waste the energy and time for a meaningless gesture? Why not give the $100 to a charity that is really doing something?
Salvation Army’s Adopt-a-Family program does not pretend to be a world-beater. But it is the most visible sign of community care for those less fortunate than we are ” the tip of the support network iceberg. All of the families on Salvation Army’s list are referred from a welfare agency, a community center, a church or a local charity. Much is being done for these families.
But the act of personally going to the home and giving the presents and food creates a human connection at holiday time that cannot be replaced by job training, debt counseling, health interventions, or welfare checks.
Yes, there may be duplication at times, you may see more presents under a tree, and the latest LCD TV mounted on the wall. But that does not diminish your personal act of kindness, and the tangible demonstration of support that your small box represents.
The Salvation Army Corp Center in Edwards cares for 250-350 families every holiday season. One-hundred percent of the proceeds go directly to the families, because we, the community, buy the food and presents, and we deliver them to the household, or at the request of the donors, the local fire department will make the deliveries. There are no administration fees or surcharges. It is a service of love.
These families are typically run by a single parent or two working people where any crisis can unbalance the tightrope act of juggling child care, housing costs, transportation, and debt. The trigger could be catastrophic illness, the closing of housing, a death in the family, an accident, the loss of a job, or the abandonment of the family unit by a parent.
One woman suffers from a broken back because of the brittleness of her bones from cancer. She has used all of her savings on medical care, and has nothing to give this season for her children.
Another lost her apartment in River Run and now can only afford a single room in someone else’s home where she lives with her husband, a disabled baby, and two older kids. There is little spare change for the holidays.
Fifty-two percent of the families are Anglo, 42 percent are Hispanic and the balance are other ethnicities. The vast majority are longtime locals, legal residents in Eagle County struggling to keep up with the rising costs. While the unemployment rate in the county is low, 2.5 percent (according to the latest Eagle County Economic Council Third Quarter Report), the number still represents real people who have needs. And yes, many are employed, but the wage/living gap continues to widen.
‘Tis the season for giving and there are few opportunities as tangible or direct as Adopt-A-Family. You locals and visitors in town who are looking for a chance to celebrate the season, what better way than to take your family shopping for a needy family and giving in the true spirit of Christmas?
There are still 30 families that need our help. Call the Salvation Army at 926-3704 and they will assign a family for you. The operator will give you their first names, their ages, gender, sizes and a few ideas to help you.
It is important to buy something for the parents as well, as the children also like to see their parents happy.
Call 926-3704 and you may find that you are the one who is blessed.
Heather Lemon of Eagle-Vail writes a biweekly column for the Vail Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.