WISE seeks sponsors for Adopt-A-Family program

BIG RAPIDS – Those who have a little extra to give this holiday season may consider stepping into Santa’s shoes to fulfill the Christmas wishes for local families struggling to put gifts beneath the tree this year.

Women’s Information Services Inc. (WISE) is searching for sponsors for its annual Adopt A Family program. Each year, WISE uses its Adopt-A-Family program to assist families living in its shelter during the holidays and families who have received support services from the agency within the past year.

Adopting a WISE family is a big show of support for victims of domestic and sexual violence, said Adopt-A-Family Coordinator Whitney Buffa.

“Violence often upends families and affects their lives for quite a while, even during the holidays,” Buffa said. “These families are trying to re-establish themselves in new homes, starting new jobs or searching for work, and going through big family changes as a result of violence. It’s nice to keep Christmas ‘normal’ and happy, especially for the kids, and to let them know there’s still plenty of good times ahead even if it’s been a rough year.”

In 2014, 26 families – including 56 children and three babies “on the way” – received Christmas gifts from local sponsors. The need will be about the same this year, Buffa said.

Each family’s needs and wants are different. There always is a need for essentials, like warm clothing, underwear and dishes, but the children also have big Christmas wishes for toys and video games.

“Their wish lists look the same as those of other families, but their parents can’t make it happen without help,” Buffa explained. “That said, our clients know nothing on their wish lists is guaranteed and sponsors aren’t obligated to buy exactly what’s on the lists.”

WISE serves Mecosta, Osceola and Newaygo counties and the Adopt-A-Family program has families participating from all three counties.

Buffa said the organization tries to match sponsors with families in their county, but also asks each sponsor what size family they can accommodate and go from there.

“If a Mecosta County sponsor is looking to sponsor a large family and we have a family of six in Newaygo County that need help, we make that match and make Christmas happen,” she said.

Sponsoring a particular family is not the only way to give back this Christmas, Buffa said.

Last year, someone donated a variety of brand new pajamas, gloves, hats, mittens and bath product sets, not for a specific family but just for anyone in shelter or receiving outreach services.

“That was extremely helpful, and that’s another great way to help without taking on a family’s entire wish list,” she said. “We also have a lot of families who could use gas cards for smaller amounts ($5 or $10), and Meijer and Walmart gift cards are great for helping purchase holiday meals.”

Families can be adopted by individuals, other families or groups of people, including offices or social clubs. Gifts will need to be delivered or picked up by WISE staff no later than 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 18.

To start the adoption process, contact Buffa at (231) 796-6600 ext. 102, or via email atadoptafamily@wiseagainstviolence.org.

Those who want to make a different kind of donation to WISE or its clients this holiday season can call (231) 796-6600 to speak to an advocate.