When people consider holiday preparations each year, they may first think of decorating their homes and trees, buying gifts, visiting with family and friends, and attending church as they prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ. At Marist School, the Adopt-a-family project has become a holiday tradition that Coordinator of Community Outreach Mrs. Karen Shanahan leads each year.
Mrs. Shanahan works with the Marist School community and partners including the Hope Community Center, PATH Academy, and St. Bede’s Episcopal Church to support families in need with new clothing—a pair of pants, shirt, jacket, and shoes—for the children and parents. While optional, oftentimes donations include items from the family members’ wish list, which may be toys, bicycles, dolls, or more clothes.
This year, Mrs. Shanahan coordinated with approximately 97 Marist groups and families to adopt 54 families plus five teenagers. In many instances, the families adopted have been affected by the pandemic with relatives who have been hospitalized or who have died due to COVID-19.
In addition to the Marist families who participated in the project, many of the school’s faculty and staff lead the giving effort in their areas. For the past few years, Mr. Jim Showfety, a teacher in the Business, Computer Science, & Engineering Department, has coordinated with his classes—Introduction to Technology, Financial Management, and Marketing and Entrepreneurship—and his advisory to adopt a family. This year, they adopted a family with a single mom and five children. Mr. Showfety said, “The response was overwhelming. Parents and students signed up for all of the gifts in a matter of hours. Parents then emailed asking if they could help in some other way. I asked Mrs. Shanahan if there was more we could do, and we added a few more gifts for our existing family and we also adopted five other teenagers who needed certain items. So, when all was said and done, we adopted 11 individuals.”
Mr. Showfety reported that Ms. Angela Campbell, the liaison from Hope Community Center, sent him a message of thanks for the group’s generosity. She said the family was overwhelmed and sincerely appreciated their kindness. He added, “The Marist community has always been incredibly generous, and this is a perfect example. During the holidays, our parents and students realize there are people in need, and this is a great way to lend a hand.”
Mrs. Angela Warrier, who manages Accounts Payable in the Marist Business Office, has participated in the Adopt-a-family project for the last three years. In 2019, she led the marching band service project to adopt five families. She said, “The students were so involved and enjoyed buying and wrapping for others. It was incredibly rewarding delivering gifts to these families and watching their faces light up. Some were in pure shock at the generosity shown to their families.”
Last year, Mrs. Warrier led the middle school volleyball service project to adopt children from five different families. She enjoyed meeting the mothers from the families when she delivered the gifts. Mrs. Warrier continued the project this year with her colleagues from the Business Office. She said, “I am thankful for everyone who participated and helped make this a great Christmas for this mother and her four boys. I encourage all to get involved with this project, from getting one item or adopting a whole family. It is a very rewarding experience and a great project to involve your students, whether it’s a homeroom/advisory, club, or athletic team. The students really enjoy participating and it helps so many families.”
The English Department also joined the effort this year and adopted a family of four sisters. Dr. Christine Bhasin said, “Instead of doing our usual Secret Santa gifts for one another as faculty members of the English department, we decided to adopt a family together. Our ‘Gifts of the Magi’ project has allowed us to collaborate as colleagues and hopefully spread some Christmas cheer beyond Ivy Street Center’s walls!”
This meaningful Christmas tradition of community outreach underscores Marist School’s emphasis on service to others and provides Marist families and faculty and staff with the opportunity to ensure that others in need have necessities like clothing and perhaps a gift or two. This type of experience highlights Marist’s commitment to providing students with the spiritual foundation they need to lead and serve with compassion, integrity, and a sense of purpose.