On Dec. 20, a group of almost 20 volunteers from Kent Hospital came together to bring some holiday cheer to 42 needy families from the area for the hospital’s 33rd Adopt-a-Family event.
The day began at 6:30 a.m., when family sponsors dropped off gifts of household items, food, clothing and toys, including bikes and sleds, to The Doctor’s Auditorium at Kent. Sponsors included various departments from Kent Hospital and their affiliates, Warwick Country Club, Prehab Sports and Unilever.
The volunteers, most of whom were employees at Kent Hospital and a few students from Bishop Hendricken High School and Warwick Veterans Memorial High School, grouped all of the gifts together by family and were preparing for the families, who remained anonymous, to arrive and pick up their gifts.
But the process actually began a few months ago.
“We start the program in August, reaching out to local agencies and within the hospital to find families that may be in need,” said Susan Barbour, a Kent employee and member of the Steering Committee. “Then we get the paperwork done and make it happen.”
The Steering Committee includes the Reverend Robin Higbie, Father David Ricard, Barbour, Richard Baggesen, Jolene Moretti and Becky Jones.
Families who are sponsored come from Kent Hospital’s KEEP (Kent Employee Emergency Program), Home Care and in-house referrals, as well as local agencies, including West Bay Community Action, St. Rita’s Parish and Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center.
The sponsors are then given a list to work off of and each family receives household items (such as toothpaste, soap, etc.), clothing, toys and food or gift cards to purchase food for Christmas dinner. The family remains anonymous throughout the process, with the sponsor only knowing first names, ages and sizes.
“They don’t expect what they are going to get,” said Barbour, recalling a family showing up in the past with just a small shopping bag, expecting to be able to bring the donations with them on a bus.
Barbour explained that if a family is unable to pick up their gifts or bring them home, some of the agencies will pick up the items on their behalf or Kent drivers will deliver them.
This program began in 1980 when one of the nursing units “adopted” a family during their annual gift exchange. Now, the program has grown to help almost 50 families every year. “This year there are more in-house families,” said Barbour. This year 15 of the families come from the Kent Hospital community. “We haven’t had over 10 families in the past,” said Barbour.