The holiday season comes around for everyone, but isn’t as joyous for some as it is for others. As comfortable families check off items on their shopping lists, others struggle to purchase a single gift. What should be a time to celebrate can be an annual reminder of how little some have.
The Retreat, a haven for families in need since 1987, incorporated an adopt-a-family program over 15 years ago. In its initial stages, it assisted about a dozen families by providing gifts for children during the holiday season. Since then, it has grown to aid 100 to 150 families annually, providing for all ages and even pets, across Long Island.
“Many of these moms and dads are overwhelmed with the thought that strangers do care about them and their children,” executive director Loretta K. Davis said. “Typically, parents say, ‘Please do not worry about me. It would make me happy if I had a gift for each of my kids — that’s all.’”
She said those the program helps are grateful.“Their reactions when they see the gifts and realize the generosity that pours out of this program — they are touched and so are we,” Davis said. “This program inspires us and warms our hearts. And at the same time, it brings confidence and appreciation to our families.”
Adopt-a-family collects donations through the middle of December, including winter clothes, games, bedding, cookware sets, art supplies, and even gift cards to grocery stores and gas stations. Beyond adopting a family, organizations and individuals across communities host collection drives to obtain other items from books to pajamas. All items are distributed not just during the holidays but throughout the year, helping those in need year-round.
“Most of our clients comment on the fact that, without the program, they would not be able to provide as nice a holiday, if any, for their children,” said Regina Mysliborski, counseling director for The Retreat. “These are individuals who are under more stress than the average person. The mothers and single clients are always very grateful for the small items that they receive — hats, coats, gloves, boots, scented candles, books, baking items, bath salts — because they would never think to buy any of these things for themselves. They are either focused on their children and keeping as much normalcy for them as they can, or they are focused on staying safe and meeting their basic needs.”
To learn more about ways to give, to volunteer, and for more information, visit www.theretreatinc.org.