Families grateful for Christmas made possible.
As a single mother working to support five children, Marina Diakite offers a prayer of thanks to God for the family who makes their Christmas come alive.
On Christmas Day, her children—all 10 years old and younger—eagerly peeled away wrapping paper to find a remote control helicopter, a complete set of art supplies, an electric pencil sharpener, and warm clothes.
"I love watching my children open presents," Diakite said. "I’m just so grateful. It’s a joy in my heart."
Her family is one of hundreds selected through Catholic Charities’ Adopt-a-Family program to receive needed items and toys—a chance for a Christmas they wouldn’t otherwise have.
"We want to do something so bad in return," Diakite said. "We pray and we thank God for allowing that family to give to us."
Diakite doesn’t know who gave the presents. The children believe it’s from the Santa Claus who visited the shelter they once called home.
Every year, families with great need are identified and then paired with other families who anonymously provide clothing, household items and toys. Many of the families are homeless or the working poor.
Diakite said she would buy presents, if she could. Her low-paying jobs barely cover living costs for their Section 8 home in Aurora. For years they bounced from shelter to shelter—including Marisol Homes (formerly Fr. Ed Judy House)—after Diakite left the children’s father who struggled with alcohol abuse.
"I don’t want them to be exposed to it," she said.
She said the presents were a big surprise for the children.
A chance for charity
Adopt-A-Family gives families the chance to give out of generosity and for others to receive their charity.
Sarah Hanus said she and her family appreciate the opportunity.
"I just can’t tell you how much we love it. It’s always just amazing," said Hanus, who lives in Westminster with her husband and three children. "We send the gifts on and love working through Catholic Charities.”
For a few years their family has adopted another family in need. They shop together to select needed items, and some surprise gifts, that are wrapped and delivered anonymously to the family. One year they adopted a single mom of four and purchased clothing, toys and a membership to the Denver Zoo.
The gift giving process can be expensive, but Hanus calls it a labor of love. The best part is receiving a thank you note from the families after Christmas, she said.
"It’s always overwhelming to me. I end up balling,” Hanus said. "One year, the (mom) commented it meant so much to her to give her little kids some of the surprises and things she couldn’t get.”
The Hanus’ plan to participate again.
"I just like the idea of relaying the message to others that we care,” she said. "We don’t know who you are, but we love you."