In a normal year, The Adoption Exchange pairs up generous Utah donors with some 450 children who are in foster care to ensure those children get to celebrate Christmas.
This isn’t a normal year.
This yuletide, the number is closer to 700, says Lindsay Kaeding, The Adoption Exchange’s director of development. Rural areas, especially Price and Roosevelt, have seen a huge increase, and a lot more newborns and infants are on the list this year than in the past, due in part, she believes, to the opioid epidemic.
Fortunately, thanks to an outpouring of generosity in recent weeks, Kaeding says all 700 kids will get a Christmas wish this year.
It’s a moving tribute to Utahns’ charitable hearts. But there still are so many more who need help.
In Ogden, the Lantern House is trying merely to keep its doors open and programs running. Formerly St. Anne’s, Lantern House is a homeless shelter and soup kitchen that can serve up to 300 people a night.
But as Operation Rio Grande shifted the focus on homelessness to downtown Salt Lake City, it also has siphoned away state and private money, says Dan Nixon, the volunteer board chairman for Lantern House.
Without an influx of funding, programs are in jeopardy, he says, likely starting with the shelter’s diversion rooms, where homeless residents who arrive intoxicated can recover without being in the general population.
To the south, in Provo, SafeXmas will mark its third year throwing a “big, weird family Christmas” so LGBTQ Mormons who aren’t welcome at family gatherings have a place to go and be accepted and stay for the holiday.
Or, since Hanukkah begins Tuesday, try supporting Jewish Family Service Utah and help sustain its food pantry for the poor, food assistance to seniors, and other programs for those in need, regardless of faith.
And imagine what it’s like for families forced to spend Christmas in one of the state’s domestic violence shelters. The YWCA needs women’s coats, sheets, underwear, diapers, tissues, children’s clothes and socks. Or you can find a shelter in your community through the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.
Each Christmas, Catholic Community Services does its Gift of the Drummer program to give backpacks and coats to homeless children and resettled refugee families. It also serves holiday meals to an estimated 1,500 people and is still raising money for its evening Christmas dinner.
I could go on and on: the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake provides food and haircuts to homeless men and women, all without any government funding; Habitat for Humanity is building the low-cost homes that will help solve Utah’s homelessness crisis; the Red Cross is still delivering food and water and providing emergency shelters to areas of Puerto Rico devastated by Hurricane Maria.
The point is, there are so many people in need of help it can be overwhelming. But there are so many worthwhile organizations doing outstanding work that it is easy for us to help, even if it’s just a little.
And maybe most important: The needs don’t disappear Dec. 26. The Road Home will still be sheltering 1,300 people, already nearing its 1,400 capacity, with the coldest months ahead. Lantern House will be scraping to keep the doors open year-round. And, unfortunately, hunger and domestic violence will be with us when we take down the tree.
So this Christmas, add a few of these to your shopping list and give what you can. And then, on New Year’s, make a resolution to keep giving in 2018. There are countless among us who will appreciate it.