The holiday season can be the most wonderful time of the year spending time with family and friends, enjoying a special meal and giving gifts. The holidays can also be an overwhelming time so imagine for a moment what the holidays are like for many of Empower Yolo’s clients who may be dealing with abuse, economic hardship, and/or homelessness. For individuals and families experiencing family hardship, trauma, poverty and food insecurity providing every day needs may be challenging. Gifts and special holiday meals are a luxury many clients don’t have the opportunity to provide their families.

Through Empower Yolo’s annual “Adopt a Family” program donors can confidentially adopt clients in need for holiday gifts. It is through generous donors and community partners like Dignity Health Woodland Healthcare that Empower Yolo is able to help so many families in need each holiday season.

“The Quality Department at Woodland Healthcare has been coordinating with the ‘Adopt a Family’ program since 2013,” says Nicole Hanson, Quality Analyst, Quality/Risk Management at Dignity Health Woodland Memorial Hospital. It’s important for many of the employees to participate and give back. “We have seven departments participating with the ‘Adopt a Family’ program; five departments have adopted a family with Empower Yolo; one department adopted a local family in the community; and one department adopted a Camp Fire family,” says Hanson.

Empower Yolo is grateful for the community’s support. There have been more clients and families in need this year than we have seen in past years. We are seeing more teenagers in need, mothers with children and male clients as well. Many clients are desperate to provide anything for their children for the holidays.

This time of year it’s exciting to witness the outpour of generosity from donors, community/religious organizations and businesses. We had inquiries from community members beginning in August.

The holiday season is the perfect time to get involved in the community and help others through the gift of your time or donations. “Everyone who gets involved believes we need to share our good fortune with others,” says Hanson. There are many wonderful opportunities at Empower Yolo to engage in the community need and give back. We have created opportunities for everyone to be able to participate. Everyone can give back in some way big or small – from adopting families or starting your own drive, to providing a toy for a child, or donating a grocery gift card for food.

The “Adopt a Family” program has expanded to include other clients in other program areas such as legal and transitional housing. A spin off of the “Adopt a Family” program where the community can help is by donating “Rooms to Go” for families leaving the shelter or starting over. “Rooms to Go” are items you would need for a specific room in your home such as a bedroom, kitchen, bathroom or laundry room. Sometimes clients leave situations where they have nothing and need to start completely over. The shelter is always in need of new queen and twin bed sheet sets.

Other spin off programs this year include: “Santa’s Playroom in the Shelter” to support the children residing in the Wallace and Vannucci safe house. These children have lived through or experienced abuse in their home lives. The child advocates at Empower Yolo work hard to help the children find fun and creative activities while their mothers are healing at the shelter. “Teens for the Holidays” supports teen needs that are often overlooked as many donors enjoy buying gifts for the younger children. “Moms for the Holidays” focuses on providing needs for mothers. Many of the mothers at the shelter are so grateful that their children are being adopted for gifts; they don’t expect anything for themselves. It is important to us to bring some joy to our mom clients and help them enjoy the holidays with their children.

“The Adopt a Family program is a reminder to our clients that they are not alone in the community and it creates a positive lifetime memory for them,” says Sonia Jimenez, Empower Yolo’s shelter director. “This is truly a wonderful program that our clients enjoy every year. It goes beyond a toy or new clothing; it provides our clients with happiness and a reminder that their community supports them,” Jimenez says.

Another way the community can help is by donating grocery gift cards to help provide holiday meals at the shelter. Gift cards of any denomination are welcome and can be dropped off at Empower Yolo during office hours.

Your support of Empower Yolo’s holiday programs helps ensure clients and their families have food on the table and gifts during the holiday season. “It is part of our mission statement, but more than that, each one of us who participates does it because we believe in helping those in need,” Hanson says.

There are many children and families that still need to be adopted. If you are interested in any of these areas of giving or have questions contact [email protected] or call (530) 661-6336. Coming together as a community to support families in need for the holidays is powerful and an amazing way to give back.   We are grateful to our donors who generously give with compassion and help provide our clients with hope. Adopting a family or donating a ‘Room to Go’ is a special way to give back and demonstrates to our clients that they truly matter.


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