TOPEKA, FROM UNITED WAY -- Santa’s list of girls and boys is a little longer for the 2011 Christmas Bureau.
Information is still being processed, but preliminary totals estimate families in need at approximately 2,900. Household sizes vary from one single individual to a family of 12.
“We have more than 9,000 people total of all ages this year seeking help,” said Tom Baumgartner, director of volunteer engagement for United Way of Greater Topeka. “Every number is up from the number of families to total people. Even the average size of household is up because when times get tight, households often combine to help share in expenses.”
The increased numbers translate to a need for more adopters.
Adoptions through the Christmas Bureau happen in a variety of ways. Local agencies pull together and adopt a large number of families in need. Others are adopted out by companies or groups and through private individuals. The remaining number of adoptions are made possible through donations to the Christmas Bureau.
The cost to adopt a family varies based on the family size. For a family of three, the recommended cost is $125 – which includes a gift of $35 for each person in the family and food for a holiday meal.
The adoption process has streamlined thanks to improved technology through the past couple of years. The simplest way to adopt is to go request a family online at www.unitedwaytopeka.org using an electronic submission form. Print and fax or mail-in forms are also available at United Way’s website or offices at 1315 SW Arrowhead. After submitting a request for a family, volunteers first process the information and then match the adopter with a family in need. The family’s contact information and wish list is sent to the adopter via email or mail.
“It’s important that once an adopter receives their family’s information that they pick up the phone and call them,” said Baumgartner. “So many of our families get nervous if they don’t hear from anyone. This is true especially when there are kids involved; they worry about their kids’ Christmas more than their own. A quick phone call calms a lot of pre-holiday stress for our families.”
After contacting the family, the adopters can shop, wrap and deliver presents.
For people not able to make the time commitment to adopt a family but still want to help, Christmas Bureau takes donations and coordinates volunteers to shop, wrap and deliver gifts.
Christmas Bureau, which is in its 70th year, held Intake for families needing assistance from Dec. 4 – Dec. 12 at Let’s Help and the Antioch Family Life Center. During Intake, hundreds of volunteers worked thousands of hours to help families complete the application process.
To qualify for assistance, a representative from the household visited an Intake sight and brought income verification documents (must be below 150% of poverty to qualify) and social security numbers for everyone in the household, a photo id and a wish list to provide adoptive families