‘Tis the season to ‘adopt’ a family for the holidays


Many departments and offices spread the holiday cheer this time of year by exchanging Pollyanna or Secret Santa gifts among co-workers. But why not give a gift of charity instead?

Penn Volunteers in Public Service (VIPS), part of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, invites University faculty and staff to participate in its annual Adopt a Family for the Holidays Program, providing gifts and goods for local families in need.

Isabel Mapp, associate director for faculty, staff and volunteer services at the Netter Center, says the program supports “deserving families who otherwise may not have the opportunity to enjoy the holidays.”

To adopt a family, departments can contact Mapp and tell her the number of employees in the office. She will, in turn, determine what size family the department can support, and provide the department with the family’s wish list.

Departments can either have one person or a committee in the office collect the funds and shop for the adopted family, ask individual employees to purchase gifts for a specific family member, or donate funds directly to Penn VIPS and have the organization shop for the family. The adopted families are typically provided with gifts and a supermarket gift card.

Selected families participate on a one-time basis. They are chosen from the Carroll Park Community Council’s housing program and the Baring House Crisis Nursery, Mapp explains.

“We also accept a small number of referrals,” she says. “If somebody knows of a family that was in a fire, or is particularly destitute at this time, we’re willing to help out.”

Mapp says Penn departments have done “amazing things” for their adopted families.

“They’ve bought beds and televisions and almost anything that was on the wish list,” she says. “But most important, they really make the holiday joyous for children in terms of providing all kinds of toys and gifts and electronics and clothing and coats.”

Penn VIPS is also holding a Holiday Gift/Toy Drive through Dec. 16. All donated items will support the gift-giving efforts of organizations such as Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell’s annual holiday party, the People’s Emergency Center, the McMichael School, Potter’s House Mission, Bridges to the Community, Intercultural Family Services, the Salvation Army and many more. All items for the holiday drive must be new, not used and unwrapped. Drop sites are located across campus.

For more information on the Adopt A Family for the Holidays Program, or the Penn VIPS Holiday Gift/Toy Drive, contact Isabel Mapp at 215-898-2020 or email sammapp@pobox.upenn.edu.

Originally published on December 2, 2010