Driving rain didn’t deter the hundreds of families who formed a line around the block starting at 8am on Saturday outside an old warehouse in Wilmington’s East Side neighborhood. Inside the facility were dozens of volunteers and thousands of holiday gifts — wrapped, tagged and ready for pickup by families who struggle to make ends meet but wanted their children to have a special Christmas day.
This was the 27th year that the Ministry of Caring administered their “Adopt a Child” program, and even when the deadline for applying for free gifts had passed, the Ministry turned no one away.
“These families – many of them would have no Christmas at all without this holiday gift drive,” said Adopt a Child organizer ReeNee Lafate. “Some of these presents are the result of last-minute requests. But how could we deny one child Christmas?” Lafate also runs the Ministry’s Emmanuel Dining Room, which feeds the homeless.
Many are families known to the Ministry and are participants in their literacy and child care programs. But Development Director Priscilla Rakestraw says the Ministry’s Christmas give-away program is a much-anticipated event throughout the city of Wilmington’s neediest neighborhoods.
“I always say you don’t know you’re poor until you go to school and you see what other children have,” said Rakestraw. “And they talk about Santa and Christmas, and they believe – they believe Santa is coming to their house. Can you imagine being a young child on Christmas morning without a present under the tree?”
This year 936 children will receive several multiple wrapped gifts on Christmas as part of the Adopt a Child program. Several businesses, churches, schools and individual donors shopped and then wrapped gifts.
All week long volunteers worked diligently to sort gifts for every individual family. Several families volunteer year after year; New Castle County paramedics have participated every year since the program’s inception. This year groups from Capital One, the Church of Latter Day Saints, and a Brownies group pitched in.
NCC paramedic Mark Allston has volunteered every year since 1991. “Volunteers are really necessary. It’s not just a thing to do. What the volunteers tell me is that this really sets the tone for their holidays.”
“We have volunteers who have been doing this forever because it makes their Christmas,” said Rakestraw.
Donors to the program this year included:
Bank of America
Richard Layton & Finger
Immaculate Heart of Mary School (IHM)
Brown Brothers Harriman & Co
Pure Yoga Pilates
Delaware City Fire Dept
Delcollo & Salvatore Real Estate
Sam Foster – Cynerfac technical staffing
Greenhill Presbyterian Church
Alter Guild of Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church
Blue Hen Parrot Head Club
LEGACY Supply Chain Services
San Damiano Fraternity
And many other generous donors