The gift of giving: Adopt-A-Family program touches over 450 families


Photo credit: Cydney Johnson

Sophomores Lily Miro and Naya Ben-Meir wrap gifts donated by students during an on-campus gift wrapping session in preparation for Dec. 14. Students will be given the opportunity to hand presents to over 450 families across the Los Angeles area.

As the holiday season is in full swing, Archer students focus on the gift of giving through the annual tradition of Adopt-a-Family. A tradition for the past 15 years, the drive is now lead by Service Learning Coordinator Meg Shirk.

Shirk, working with Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, assigned a family to each grade level and faculty and staff, who fulfilled the families’ wish lists. The program “serves families in the Los Angeles Skid Row and Downtown areas” according to their website. Archer’s Community Service Leadership Board [CSLB] presidents, seniors Mara Bridwell and Hannah Katzenstein, worked closely with Shirk for this project.

On Saturday, Dec. 14, the gifts collected during the drive will be personally delivered to the families by Archer students and faculty.

Shirk said her reason for helping the community was to do little things that “add up to be something really powerful.”

“You look and see this program touches 450 families, we wish we could help more families – even Archer families,” Shirk said. “I think it is important to think about the big picture and all of the lives you’re changing.”

Shirk said the program’s success can be credited to the tradition the drive has become.

“Archer is a newer school, and I think that Archer takes their traditions to heart. The student body and faculty and staff and the Archer community as a whole looks forward to it every year and see it as a way to get involved with the larger community and give back, especially around the holidays,” Shirk said. “When people are feeling grateful for all they have, they want to give back.”

While the purpose of the program is to provide gifts to families, Katzenstein said that buying gifts is not necessarily the only way to give back.

“We really appreciate help gift-wrapping and, honestly, I think it can be even more impactful than buying gifts,” Katzenstein said. “The gift of time is very important.”

Gift-wrapping sessions took place during X-blocks, lunches and after school. During one session, sophomore Lily Miro said that she was wrapping because she wants to delve into the “Christmas spirit.”

“Christmas is my favorite holiday, and I want to get into the Christmas spirit by helping the greater community outside of Archer,” Miro said.

Bridwell said that the Adopt-A-Family tradition makes her feel grateful for being part of CSLB as well as changing her perspective on ways to give back.

“There are people in need just a few miles away from me, and there are families that want to have a fun Christmas really close to me,” Bridwell said. “[Adopt-A-Family] showed me I can make a difference close to my house. I think it is something not many people recognize: you can do something small close to home that makes a big change.”

Shirk says the program and giving back brings purpose to her life and makes her feel “amazing.”

I’d love to have people show up to deliver the gifts on Dec. 14. Students and families can show up and give gifts to the recipients. It is extraordinarily moving to see the smiles and emotion that comes from getting gifts,” Shirk said. “I think it just sets the holiday season up for being thankful and grateful for all the things we have.”