Orange Coast College students and their families can receive joy for the holidays through the college’s Adopt-A-Family program that assists economically disadvantaged single parents.

The program, a part of EOPS/CARE, allows sponsors to either adopt a family or donate to an opportunity drawing, with all funds raised going to the Adopt-A-Family project. All donations are tax deductible and all donors can remain anonymous.

Rae Davis, a student resource specialist in the Pirates’ Cove food pantry, said she has experienced that kind of joy.

“I was excited filling out the form for Adopt-A-Family. I was 20 years old and my son was 3. I was on the OCC basketball team renting a room from a teammate. I couldn’t afford a Christmas tree, much less presents, so I decided to have a simple Christmas,” Davis said.

However, her simple Christmas turned out to be anything but.

“I was really blessed to be adopted by the mens’ basketball coach and the whole team. I wrote on the form that I needed a vacuum cleaner and an iron. I ended up getting so much more than I expected — gift cards, toys, clothes for both of us,” Davis said.

When she went to pick up the gifts, Davis said she couldn’t fit them all in her car. Her son immediately started jumping when he saw all the presents. On Christmas Day, she said she watched him tear the wrapping paper eagerly and begin playing with a toy basketball hoop.

“It was incredible to see the community on our campus — the men’s basketball team and coach made a selfless decision to give to a member of the women’s team,” she said.

Steve Tamanaha, dean of student success and support services said he has participated as a donor and feels joy in giving.

“Adopt-A-Family goes directly to a CARE student and their children. What makes it special is the family. I admire single parents going to school, working and at the same time raising a family,” he said.

Katherine Gomez, a 25-year-old psychology major, said she was happy four years ago when she discovered there was a program for single parents to receive gifts during the holidays. She was struggling to find a job, was taking the bus to OCC and had a toddler. She couldn’t afford presents for her daughter.

She recalls her daughter’s reaction on Christmas Day.

“Her eyes were wide open and she was smiling, admiring her new bike. Her other request was for a horse family. She instantly played with the two adult horses and their colts. She was delighted. Their tails had glitter and the manes were colorful. And when she unwrapped the Barbie house she gave a high-pitched squeal. Although we were grateful for the gifts — I saw that she was understanding that the holidays were more than gifts,” Gomez said.

Gomez said she and her daughter understood that OCC donors reached out to ensure that their holiday would be special.

Although she is no longer a participant in Adopt-A-Family four years later, Gomez is working at Guardian Scholars part time and will transfer to Cal State Fullerton. She plans to pursue a career in probation, working with at-risk youths.

To participate in the Adopt-A-Family program donors can purchase tickets for the opportunity drawing from now through Nov. 15 at noon or be assigned a family to adopt through Dec. 3.

Tickets cost $3 each, two for $5, five for $10 or 15 tickets for $20. Check donations and gift cards are also accepted. The CARE office is located on the fourth floor of Watson Hall.

The drawing will be held on Nov. 15 at 1 p.m. in front of Watson Hall. For more information contact Tracy Heffelman, CARE Specialist at theffelman@occ.cccd.edu or call  (714) 432-5173.

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