Live United: United Way starting new Christmas adoption program

Published 8:45 pm Friday, October 21, 2022

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Live United by Erin Haag

Casino Night appears to have been a hit! Our celebrity dealers enjoyed themselves, we had beautiful silent auction items and the atmosphere at Wedgewood Cove was top notch as always. My little guy was not one of the celebrity dealers, although he’s very jealous that we had Albert Lea Police Detective Sy and Lt. Jeff and Santa! We thank all of our silent auction donors, our celebrity dealers and the committee that helped plan and organize this. We learned a lot and hope to do this on an annual basis. I hope you’ll join us next year — and I’ve learned to make sure it’s very very clear that we’re not gambling with real money. It’s all fun money and the winner gets bragging rights! Who knows, maybe we’ll combine it with something else next year.

Erin Haag

While this was marketed and planned as a fundraiser, we anticipated it to be a learning curve year, and knew that we might not make a profit. We were right, we didn’t make a profit, and that’s OK. What we did do was engage with new donors, some of our board members got to meet each other in person for the first time, and we had the opportunity to celebrate the work we’ve done in the last few year and share our plans for the future. 

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One key moment for us was the official announcement of the Christmas Family Adoption Program. While I’ve written in the past about the holiday support we’ve provided through connections, this year the board of directors has decided to formalize this program. Through the past few years, we’ve learned that existing holiday support programs may not be the model that some donors are looking for. We’ve also learned that there are some gaps in services — primarily in upper elementary and teenagers. The existing programs are important — like everything else, we seek to complement, not duplicate these programs. 

The Christmas Family Adoption Program will have a few key points. 1. This is a direct referral program. Only area human service providers will be able to sign a family up to be adopted. 2. This is a matching program — matching families to those wishing to adopt. We do not fundraise or build a budget for this program. Our capacity will match the number of donors versus the number of families. 3. Families with upper elementary and teenagers are prioritized, as these families currently do not have existing services. 4. This is a completely anonymous program. We researched other programs where families and adoptees had the opportunity to meet. However, after considering our small town, we determined it was best to keep it anonymous for now. Next week, we’ll be finalizing the details and notifying school social workers and other human service providers to start building our list of families and their wish lists. Currently it’s not listed on our website, nor do I have any handouts or brochures ready to share, but they’re coming. 

As of this writing, there’s 10 Saturdays until Christmas Eve. We’ve got two more Welcome Pantry Distribution Dates, five Winter Gear Distribution Dates and looking for a new space to accommodate all these new and expanding programs and giving presentations and campaigning to be able to fund the impact we have on our community. This weekend, we’re soaking up family time, battling illness and hoping that a long weekend of deep rest will help us keep the faith. Thank goodness the taxes are done. 

MEA weekend marks an interesting phenomenon in my world. There’s a mad rush of All. The. Things. Before the end of the year. Somehow though, time seems to slow down just a bit. With the sun setting earlier, my children are bathed up and in their snuggly footie jammies well before they need to sleep. My husband is in the house, rather than working on his latest project outside. Instead of feeding dirty children on the porch and literally hosing them down before they’re allowed in the house, it’s warm fuzzy blankets and movie nights. 

My daughter has been saying that she wants world peace for Christmas. While no one would argue with that, my wishes are a little narrower in scope. I hope that our community members all find peace and comfort in these shorter days. I hope that there’s less worry about holiday gifts, less worry about the price of groceries or how they’re going to keep their children warm this winter. I know this worry is out there, in far too many families. However, each time I write a check for a grant payment, each time I receive a grant or donation, each time we host a distribution event, I know we’re easing those worries just a bit. For me, that’s everything. 

If you’d like to join us in making an impact this holiday season, please reach out to us. Our office phone is 507-373-8670. For donations, our address is PO Box 686, Albert Lea, MN 56007. Our physical address is 2610 Y.H. Hanson, located on the south side of the building. We’re usually there Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Because of those warm snuggly kids in jammies, if Albert Lea Area Schools is closed, or illness strikes, our schedule may be different, so we encourage calling us first. In the meantime, stay tuned for more details to come! 

Erin Haag is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.