On Christmas morning last year, Michele Lamirande’s three children – Justin, 10, Mikaela, 8, and Tyler, 5 – awoke to find Santa had visited. ” Their eyes just popped open,” she said. ” Christmas morning is great. It’s the one time of the year that my kids are happiest.”
Michele was able to provide the joy of the Christmas surprise through the COC’s Adopt-A-Family program, one of the organization’s social services.
The Adopt-A-Family program raises money from other Coastsiders to buy Christmas gifts for each member of every family enrolled in it. Last Year, the program provided gifts for more than 300 Coastside families and seniors. COC Board Member Judy O’Leary and Ruth Rafello and Delores Crabb solicit donations, adopting families and volunteers to buy and wrap gifts at the COC’s busy North Pole outpost, a Princeton warehouse. “It’s a unique opportunity to watch two elements of the community come together in a way that makes them all feel good,” Judy said. “So many people tell me, this is the most important part of Christmas for my family every year: to adopt a family. To watch that process happen is why I do it.”
Michele, a single mom, found out about the program through Fatima Soares, COC’s social worker. A disabling back injury has prevented Michele from working. Putting food on the table and paying the mortages has been a challege – not to mention giving gifts. “Kids don’t understand the severity of the problem,” said Michele, who lives in El Granada. ” And it’s really hard for me to ask for things. It took me a long time to go in there.”
But the joy her kids got out of seeing what Santa brought offset the discomfort of needing help. “it’s comforting to know there are people like Fatima,” Michele said. “Fatima goes far beyond her duties to help families bring joy to the little ones. If not for her hard work, the joy of Christmas wouldn’t exist.”