The Red Deer Salvation Army expects close to 200 families in the area will be looking for a special, secret Santa Claus this Christmas.
Through the Adopt-a-Family program, at-need families throughout Central Alberta are able to have a Christmas and sponsors are able to provide someone with a special memory.
The program, which has run for a number of years, partners individuals, families, service club or businesses with an in-need family.
The family is then supported through the Christmas season. Salvation Army Major Larry Bridger said the budget is typically $100 per person.
The names of the individuals or families who are the adoptees are not released to their adopters.
Last year, 187 families were assisted through the program, but Bridger said they never have enough sponsors for their families.
“That’s where we pick up the slack through other donations that come in,” he said.
Families available for adoption can be as small as single child, but can also be much larger.
“We would let the sponsor know, once we’ve assigned a family, some of the suggested gifts,” said Bridger.
“When people register we try to find out what are some of the things your kid would enjoy as a gift.”
Sponsors can do the shopping themselves, if they would like, or contribute some money to the families.
“That’s part of the fun, too,” said Bridger. “I know I’ve heard from some of the sponsors: ‘It’s fun being out shopping for the gifts.’ They enjoy doing that.”
Bridger said they hope they would come close to the same level of sponsorship this year compared to last. Early estimates show they will have about 200 families looking for sponsors.
“The needs of many, we know are just as great,” said Bridger.
“We just started registrations this past week and we have almost 30 (families in need) registered so far.”
That number will continue to rise as most people don’t apply to become an adopted family until later in the Christmas season.
“People who want to register should be doing it sooner, rather than later,” said Bridger. “They should be calling to make an appointment for an interview for the program.”
Registrations for the program started on Nov. 7 and run until Dec. 14.
“I think it makes a vast difference for people,” said Bridger. “People who otherwise would not have practically anything at all. We hear so many families are grateful, saying ‘You’ve made our Christmas.’ It does impact, there are a lot of people who just don’t have the money to be able to provide a good Christmas.”
People who are interested in becoming a sponsor or who would like to register as a family for adoption can call the Salvation Army of Red Deer at 403-346-2251.