Each year, Augustana Lutheran Church participates in the Neighbors, Inc. Holiday Gift Program by connecting congregational members (as adopters) with families and seniors in need through the Adopt-a-Family and Adopt-a-Senior programs. I recently sat down with Cathy Hendrikson, staff member at Augustana, to find out how they have made this program such a successful ministry at their church.

“Adopters love it!” Cathy said and went on to explain how participating as an adopter in this program can become a meaningful part of a family’s holiday traditions. “For families to go shopping with their kids and buy something so tangible is incredible. And everything stays in the community, which is great.”

Cathy leads Augustana’s charge by communicating about the program to both past adopters and the congregation as a whole through church newsletters, weekly bulletins, social media and within their youth ministry programming. Her helpful tip is to “get the word out early!” (She has several members of her congregation that love being able to shop for their adopted families during the Black Friday sales.) Another way Augustana promotes involvement in this program is during their annual Advent Fair, which is held on a Sunday morning in early December or late November. The purpose of the Advent Fair is to highlight different ways congregational members can support global and local causes through volunteering, donating, education and advocacy. There is a table set-up during the Advent Fair where congregational members can pick up a wish list of a family or senior to “adopt.” To make it convenient for members who choose to adopt a family or senior, Cathy allows them to drop off their purchased gifts at Augustana and coordinates getting them to Neighbors. If there are any families or seniors who haven’t been adopted at the conclusion of the Advent Fair, Cathy has gotten creative and divided up a family’s wish list items between multiple adopters. This also helps to keep it cost effective if donors are not able to contribute the suggested $100 in gifts per child or senior.

“It’s easy. It’s rewarding,” she said. “People want to help.”

Cathy’s Tips for Successfully Organizing a Group Holiday Gift Program Adoption Event:

  • Promote it early and often. Use the means you have to communicate about the program. Start well in advance to get the word out.
  • Establish a main point of contact.
  • Ask! Reach out to everyone – including past adopters. Many times people don’t realize there is a need until you ask.
  • Keep good records.

Thanks, Augustana, for all you do to help make the holidays bright!

If you would like to find out more about how you can participate in or receive gifts from the Neighbors Holiday Gift Program, click here.