Adopt-A-Family again making Christmas possible for the needy in Manatee

31 years of making wishes come true for children and families The crazy, busy season for Adopt A Family volunteers

vmannix@bradenton.comDecember 10, 2013 

BRADENTON -- One person needed triple-A batteries for an air hockey game.

Somebody else asked whether soccer balls were being blown up.

Another person looked for headphones.

And all the while the office phones kept on ringing.

"This place is crazy," Kim Duty said, laughing during a manic Monday morning in Manatee County Adopt A Family's temporary warehouse quarters at Sarasota-Bradenton Commerce Center, 7345 16th St. E.

Yet the organization's president wouldn't have it any other way.

It meant Christmas is near and it will be a better one for 3,500 children in 1,200 poor Manatee County families, thanks to the volunteer nonprofit and its network of supporters for the past 31 years.

About a dozen people were working around the building, absorbed in their various roles readying gifts for distribution.

"There's something about this place," Duty said, amidst the pre-holiday hustle and bustle. "People come back here every year, getting gifts ready for children."

Over in one room that was piled with boxes of toys, Judy DiDonato cradled a soccer ball, digital camera and headphones, while holding a family's application wish list.

"We try to satisfy their wishes and do four (gifts) but sometimes it ends up more -- and they always get three or four books," she said.

Joyce Gervais, Karen Koch, Nancy Martin and Judy Soutar were busy wrapping toys in another room.

Nearly 12,000 gifts will have been wrapped before Adopt A Family's holiday season is a wrap.

"We can get a job wrapping at Bealls after this," Soutar joked.

Out on the loading dock, Paul DiDonato, Marty Foley and Karl Youngs were stacking numbered cardboard boxes of gifts for each family.

In a change from past routine, gift dispersal began Dec. 3 to ease traffic congestion at the complex and will wrap up Dec. 16.

"With 100 to 150 cars lined up and trucks coming in and out, it was bedlam," Duty said. "So we've been calling families to come get their gifts."

Unfortunately, donations are down nearly 25 percent and Adopt A Family had to skip buying clothing, a staple for years.

"It's a disappointment, but we try to do the most with what we have," Duty said.

Groups such as Trinity Lutheran Church have been steadfast in their generosity. Church member Marilyn Newsham dropped off boxes of gifts and handmade quilts for 10 families and 40 children.

"They won't know who the gifts came from, but it doesn't matter," she said. "What matters is we can provide somebody with warmth and caring."

Somebody such as Abel de la Cruz and his family. The unemployed migrant worker was grateful for the generosity enabled by Adopt A Family as he waited Monday.

"It's a good thing they're doing," he said. "If we didn't have this, we wouldn't have a very good Christmas."

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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