For the 30th consecutive year, the annual Adopt A Family program will soon be underway.

It is an opportunity for families, individuals, couples, organizations, businesses, etc., to provide things at Christmas for families with children that they wouldn’t otherwise have.

This program, which is a collaborative effort of the York News-Times and Blue Valley Community Action, provides so much more than just gifts under the tree. It also provides a sense of well-being, warmth and happiness . . . for both the recipients and the givers.

Believe me, if you adopt a family, your heart will grow.

I can’t count how many times we’ve choked up, here at the YNT building, reading the want lists and seeing the amazing generosity people have shown toward people they don’t even know.

One year, a little boy only had one thing on his wish list. It wasn’t some new, exciting electronic gadget or a trendy type of high top shoe. All the kid wanted was wood. Yes, wood. He just wanted some wood, so he could work on his goal of someday being a carpenter. Well, he got wood, did he ever. I know the man who went out and not only got the boy some wood, but also tools of all kinds, and instruction books, and paint supplies, and so much more.

I’m sure that little boy was beyond ecstatic on Christmas morning. And I know for a fact the man was moved to tears and his heart swelled with happiness in the realization it was up to him to make that dream come true.

Yep, his heart grew in a good way which he benefitted from as well.

Another year, a family only wanted blankets, pots and pans . . . oh, and a stove. They simply didn’t have a stove. Now, this was a larger, more expensive item that we didn’t think might happen because it was such a financial undertaking. But lo and behold, right before Christmas, a beautiful, shiny, new stove was delivered to our old press room . . . and then taken to the home of the family who would be using it to cook dinner during the holidays and many years later. Turns out, a group of co-workers at a local business decided to pool their money and make that happen.

When the stove was delivered, some of them were here . . . . and when we thanked them, one of them said, “Oh, it made my heart grow three times bigger than it was before. I’m so happy we could help.”

A single mother needed bunk beds for her little ones because they simply didn’t have the furniture they needed. Again, a pretty big expense compared to a doll or a crock pot or some bath towels. It didn’t matter . . . an extended family decided to not exchange presents amongst themselves and instead use that money to purchase beds for kids who just didn’t have anywhere to sleep.

How was that family’s Christmas without the gift exchange? They said their “hearts had never been more full, their closeness had never been greater.”

One year, a single dad with a little boy needed a few items for the little guy . . . and Christmas dinner. The young dad worked all the time and still money was tight. Not only did he not have time or funds to shop for groceries, he lacked the time or ability to make his son a holiday meal they would both remember. That Christmas Eve, they had not only gifts to open but a meal to share together. The people who provided it said they pictured the two having a quiet, warm and normal Christmas Eve . . . just a time when the troubles went away and time could stand still.

Oh, yes, they said their hearts were full, knowing they could make a difference.

For a number of years now, we’ve had a wonderful church group who provides a beautiful book – The Christmas Story (the real Christmas story) – for each and every family. They have already pledged to do the same this year.

Do you want your heart to grow this Christmas? Do you want to feel that excitement of buying and wrapping toys for little kids who probably won’t get anything otherwise? Do you want to have happy tears well up in your eyes as you deliver your packages and see all the other packages that like-minded people have brought forward? Do you want to have a sense of Christmas joy that is so magical it stays with you all year long?

Join us in helping 15 families this year.

The families were chosen from among Blue Valley clientele or from recommendations by area pastors and social service agencies.

Each family put together a wish list – those lists will soon be published in the News-Times. You will be able to see them on our website, yorknewstimes.com, read them in the newspaper or you can come to the office to look at the lists.

Each profile will include ages, clothing sizes, needs and wishes of family members so if you want to adopt a family, you can get what they need. You don’t have to provide everything on the list and you can certainly add whatever you want. These are just guidelines.

A number will be assigned to each family to maintain their anonymity.

If you want to adopt a family, just call Cheri or Tammi here at the newspaper or stop at the office. They will explain the deadline, so the gifts are delivered in time for Christmas.

Monetary donations are another important part of the Adopt A Family program. Each year, financial donations are accepted by the Adopt A Family administrators at the News-Times and then turned over to an account that is managed by Blue Valley Community Action.

This money is accessed throughout the year as Blue Valley officials help individuals and families who fall on hard times . . . paying for utility bills, for vehicle gas, to help with medications, etc., when people can’t pay for those things themselves and have nowhere to turn.

The YNT has again set a goal, a challenge, of $5,000 . . . and there will be updates on the level of giving.

To make monetary donations, funds may be left at the News-Times office, or they may be mailed to Adopt A Family in care of the News-Times, Box 279, York, NE 68467. All checks should be made payable to Adopt A Family. Donations may also be made in a person’s memory or on behalf of an individual or group.

These funds are extremely important as they are often a last resort for people who have emergency situations . . . in March, July, October and at Christmas.

And yes, your heart grows when you help this way, too.

Years ago, I remember a family with little kids arrived at the newspaper to deliver their gifts. A little guy, only maybe three or four, was carrying what appeared to be a wrapped basketball and a package of toilet paper. He struggled a little bit with his parcels . . . but when asked if he needed help carrying the presents, he proudly said he didn’t.

“Nope, I got it. It makes me happy to carry these presents . . . because some other kid is going to be super glad when he sees it.”

He grinned as he fumbled around with the presents and we all smiled as we watched.

And yes, all our hearts grew.

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