By Lex McMillan

She is a 37-year-old single mother of three teenagers.  Her oldest, a daughter, now 19, was born with Cerebral Palsy and a disheartening mix of other medical challenges that have required 23 surgeries over the years. The two other children are a boy, 16, and a girl, 14.  The father of the two oldest children died in his sleep in 2009.  She was just 24 at the time.

Her youngest daughter was the only good thing that came out of a later, short-lived affair that she described as “a disaster.”  She doubts there will ever be a man who would have the character to take on the challenges of her and her three children.  Hard experience has made her a realist, but she still has hope that is rooted in a strong faith and the annual miracle that came to her through the Adams Rescue Mission’s Adopt-A-Family Christmas program.

More than ten years ago, she was struggling financially when Christmas approached.  Like many others in our community, she didn’t see how she could manage any gifts for her small children.  A friend encouraged her to apply for the Adopt-A-Family program.  She was overjoyed to be accepted and welcomed the annual support through a decade of struggles.

She recently secured a state-supported position as a nursing assistant and is paid for providing the in-home care that her older daughter requires. Although she has only a high-school diploma, she has taken some college-level courses in nursing and hopes to become a certified nursing assistant.

This year she did not apply for Adopt-A-Family.  With steady income, she has been withholding $50 each pay period for the past year.  Now able to provide Christmas gifts for her children, she has also become a sponsor for Adopt-A-Family with a gift of $500.  She wants her children to see the joy in the faces of those who benefit from the program.  She wants them to know that there are loving and generous people in the world.

The Adopt-A-Family program began on a small scale in 2008 at ARM’s Agape House shelter for women and children.  Jen Punchard, now the director of Agape House, coordinates the program that has grown to serve more than 400 families over the years.

Jen said it began with a woman’s offer to provide Christmas presents for the children at Agape House.  Others stepped up and it grew by word of mouth. Soon, it was clear that sufficient interest would enable the program to support many more families than those living at Agape House.

Participants must meet the state definition of poverty.  Each family completes an application with detailed financial information as well as their children’s names, clothing sizes, favorite colors, three needs, and three wants. Although the program is designed for children 12 and under, Jen said they also provide “teen bags” with gifts for teenagers in the family.

More than 200 sponsors support the program.  They include churches, businesses, Bible study groups, clubs, and individuals.  Sponsorships range from an older woman who faithfully provides one small gift each year, to others who provide substantially more.

Explaining the program’s success, Jen simply says, “God has His hand in it.  It always works out.”  She also notes that the program is the foundation of ongoing relationships.  The families know there is a place where they can find God’s love and support throughout the year.  Many former participants become sponsors when their circumstances improve.

The Adams Rescue Mission exists to proclaim the passion of Jesus toward the hungry, homeless, abused, and addicted; to accelerate recovery and restoration to the least, last, lonely, and lost.  Lex McMillan is a board member of ARM.

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