Neva Thompson of Scottsdale

Neva Thompson of Scottsdale, who is three months shy of turning 101, digs through a gift bag she received from the Adopt a Senior program.

People stepped up in a big way this year for the City of Scottsdale’s annual Adopt a Family program.

All 241 families enrolled in the program were adopted.

The program matches income-eligible families with sponsors who provide food and gifts for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“We had an overwhelming response from the community this year,” said Sue Oh, Human Services specialist, adding that the city is still getting requests from people wanting to be sponsors.

While the program received a similar number of applicants as last year, Oh said the pandemic has been especially hard on families, many of whom have been in need of rent, mortgage, and utilities assistance.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 26 million adults – 12 percent of all American adults – reported that their household sometimes or often did not have enough to eat in the last seven days.

This was far above the pre-pandemic rate, which a survey by the U.S. Agriculture Department put at 3.4 percent in 2019. 

For many families experiencing financial hardship, Oh said, “It may be difficult to think about the holidays and presents if you are trying to make sure the bills are paid.”

Gift bags were handed out last week and Oh said city staff could not deploy volunteers because of the pandemic.

“We had to come up with different strategies to get things in and out of cars of sponsors and families,” she said. “Overall, the changes made things a lot quicker and easier.”

Last month, 208 families received Thanksgiving bags that included everything for a meal except the turkey. The bags included $35 gift cards families could use to buy one.

“We are constantly surprised of the generous community. We had a tremendous amount of support and positive feedback for continuing to have the Adopt A Family program this year,” Oh said. 

Because the city has a waitlist for the Adopt a Family program, it is requesting monetary donations to help any non-sponsored families on the list.

“This year has been a very difficult year for everybody,” Oh said. “Students were not able to go to school or see their friends, celebrations and trips were cancelled, jobs were lost, and fear filled our lives. We hope that the food and gifts during the holiday season brings joy and hope.”

The city isn’t the only entity raising money for those in need this holiday season.

Coach House, Scottsdale’s oldest tavern, is raising money for Vista del Camino via their “Keep the Lights On” fundraiser.

“During my conversations with the wonderful people who work for that organization, I learned that people are having a hard time paying for the utilities and their rents,” said Coach House Operations Manager Chelsea Hassler.

For more than 25 years, Coach House hosted its annual toy drive for Vista del Camino. Last year alone, Coach House donated a U-Haul full of toys and $9,500 in cash. 

They were unable to host the event this year, so Coach House launched a virtual fundraiser at GoFundMe.com.

“We have a long history of supporting Vista del Camino and were devastated that we had to cancel,” Hassler said. “This year in particular has been especially challenging for everyone, and we feel that it is more important now than ever to help however we can.”

The fundraiser will continue through December. 

“We have a really lofty goal,” Hassler said. “We decided on that amount based upon what we raised last year in one weekend.”

All proceeds will go directly to Vista del Camino and Scottsdale Community Partners.

“Vista del Camino is such an important organization and does such amazing work in this community. The challenges of this year can seem so overwhelming, and there isn’t one person or industry that hasn’t been negatively affected by COVID-19,” Hassler said.

Vista del Camino provides a variety of services to residents to prevent homelessness, meet the basic needs of individuals and families in crisis, relieve economic and emotional stress, and assist individuals to maintain self-sufficiency.

This year, Vista del Camino has seen a 25 percent increase in families requesting assistance. 

“The families that Vista del Camino helps are our neighbors and our friends. We love our Scottsdale community, and it is so important to give back,” Hassler said.

Those interested in donating to Adopt a Family can do so by visiting scottsdaleaz.gov/human-services/vista-del-camino/adopt-a-family.

Those who’d like to donate to Coach House’s “Keep the Lights On” fundraiser can visit gofundme.com/f/xn5wd-keep-the-lights-on.

“We want to end this year on a good note, so donate, donate, donate, please!” Hassler urged.