BIDDEFORD/SACO — Every year, the 100-year-old-Rotary Club reaches out to local schools that connects them with local families with children, who may need a hand during the holiday season. It is a tradition that has been shared with these Rotarians and their families for centuries and one of the staples of this organization that continues to impact everyone involved.

Each December, Rotary club members gather as part of the Adopt-A-Family event for an evening of shopping where committee organizers distribute the wish lists of local children in need. For those children, Christmas without gifts is their reality. Heather Gendron and Karen Chasse, co-chairs of this Rotary event, recognized there would be no opportunity for gathering as a group this year but the club was determined to find a way to make certain this event happened.

“The Rotarians really stepped up this year and our club was able to deliver Christmas presents to 81 children in the Biddeford and Saco Communities,” said Gendron. “That was the most number of requests we ever received.” The Rotary club allocates spending $100 per child. Rotarians who participate, can choose to contribute any amount on top of that. “We partner with school faculty, community members, friends, business owners and family members to make this possible,” added Gendron.

Each of the children selected for the Adopt-A-Family program are asked to complete a Christmas wish list of clothing, toys, and other items they wished for. Then, organizers distribute the wish lists to volunteer Rotarians and other local volunteers who went to work making wishes come true. “Many of the volunteers who participate in this program, offer to sponsor these children on their own, without Rotary funds. Their generosity allowed our Rotary Club to adopt even more children,” added Gendron.

Julie Villemaire, secretary of the Biddeford and Saco Rotary Club and longtime member said, “This is one of the most heartfelt and rewarding programs that I’ve been honored to take part in with my fellow Rotarians. Being able to help put smiles on the faces of these families, during what can often be a very difficult time of year for some, gives you this incredible feeling and truly opens your heart.”

Vice president of the club, Brenda Pollock said, “My 12-year-old granddaughter wanted to be involved in this project. It was important to her that we purchase everything on their wish list … and then some. It was an experience that reinforces gratitude and the importance of helping those less fortunate.”

This year, every Rotarian had to be responsible for every aspect of shopping, wrapping, and delivering on their own. Karen Chasse, co-chair of this program said, “This year certainly is different in how we served the many families in our Adopt-A-Family Christmas Program. We were not able to work together as a group but, that didn’t deter our Rotarians. Once the Biddeford and Saco School Departments identified families in need, we assigned them to those willing to help.”

Family and friends of volunteer Rotarians who learned of the program also wanted to volunteer.

“It was no surprise that the need this year was significant,” Chasse said. “We are grateful for the help of school department staff, local businesses, Rotarians, and local citizens who sponsored a family on their own so all the families identified would have smiling children on Christmas morning.”

In addition to the providing children’s wishes, the Biddeford and Saco Rotary Club also delivered a $100 Hannaford food gift card to the parents/guardians. “So many people are struggling to put food on the table,” Gendron said. “The grocery gift card will help ensure these families also can enjoy a holiday dinner.”

The club budgets $5,000 each year for the Adopt-A-Family program. The gift lists received by families each year always exceed that. “It’s a tribute to the Rotarians and other volunteers who step up and graciously give generously each year,” Gendron said. “Without them, this would not be possible. We are fortunate that we can come together as a community to make a positive impact in the lives of so many of our community’s children this holiday season.”

For more information on the Rotary Club of Biddeford and Saco or to learn more about the Adopt-A-Family program, visit: http://www.biddeford-sacorotary.org/ or visit their Facebook page at: Biddeford Club of Biddeford-Saco.

filed under: