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Adopt-a-Family begins holiday gift giveaway

WHITFIELD — Mary Lang, Rebecca Jeffrey and Johanna Farias may not know each other.

Nor do they know Karl Youngs.

Or Barbara Huffman.

Yet their momentary meeting Monday provided a touching connection at Adopt-A-Family’s first day of distributing thousands of Christmas gifts to needy families for their children.

The women were among the people who drove up behind Adopt’s warehouse at the Sarasota-Bradenton Commerce Center on 15th Street East to pick up boxes of wrapped toys, clothing and such.

“It’s such a blessing it gives me the chills,” said Lang, fending for three grandchildren and her two teens.

“Without it, there’s nothing under the tree,” said Jeffrey, a newly married mother of four ages 6 to 12.

“Christmas wouldn’t be so bright otherwise,” said Farias, a single mother of four ages 3 to 9.

They speak for 1,645 families and 4,998 children, an unprecedented number, who applied to Adopt for help at the holidays.

“These are tough times,” said Young, an Adopt volunteer sporting a funky Santa’s helper hat, as he carried gift boxes to waiting vehicles. “I’m sure the parents feel good they have something to give their children.

“I wish I could see the little kids open their presents at Christmas. We can’t be there with them, but we do what we can. That’s enough of a gift for me.”

Huffman, a longtime volunteer, agreed while assisting Youngs.

“A lot of love goes into this — picking out gifts to give to a child, the wrapping, the distributing, it’s all done through love. To help,” she said.

The help is appreciated.

Lang’s tears were proof.

“Christmas is stressful, not just for me but everyone. Money is so tight you can barely keep up. So I’m grateful for these blessings,” she said. “The way I explained it to the kids, we can’t always get what we want. Be grateful for what you receive.”

Dawn McMullen, a single mother of three ages 10 to 1, told her children the same thing.

Whatever they get is a surprise for all of us. Santa Claus for real,” said the nursing student. “It’s going to make Christmas.”

Rebecca McLean felt that way, too.

“It doesn’t matter what they get. It’s just having something that day for them,” said the single mother of five, ages 16 to 5.

What would McLean, laid off last month, like for Christmas?

“Just the joy of my kids being able to get something,” she said.

The other moms echoed the sentiment.

“My kids and grandkids receiving something, that’s good enough for me,” Lang said.

“Their smiles will do,” Jeffrey said.

“If the kids are happy, mom’s happy,” Farias said.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055, or write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, Fl. 34206 or e-mail him at Please include a phone number for verification.

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