“I was nervous. I worried about us serving all our families this year within our budget.”
Natalie Gill had good reason to be concerned. For decades, Fox Valley Technical College has successfully created holiday magic for student families through its Adopt-a-Family program. But this year Natalie, a student finance analyst and program co-chair, watched as the pandemic threw the whole holiday giving program into a tailspin.
“In the past, we had departments and clubs that would volunteer to adopt entire families which then offset our costs,” Natalie said. “I worried whether we’d be able to help all our families. I was blown away by the help and donations we received even though we had to make everything contactless.”
Natalie and co-chair Lisa Schmid, director of enrollment services, really do mean ‘everything’. Families referred to the program this year had to be interviewed over the phone or by virtual meeting. Wish lists were created and shopping was done completely online. Instead of the yearly FVTC breakfast fundraiser that helped offset costs of the program, Adopt-a-Family had to rely on donations coming in online.
“In the past, we’d go shopping and buy gifts, wrap them and deliver them to our families, along with a generous food donation basket, personal care items and warm-weather gear,” Lisa said. “This year, the gifts are being sent directly to the families through Amazon. We put together the food baskets and provided wrapping paper, but in staying as contactless as possible, families picked those things up at school.”
A total of 24 families are being helped by the Adopt-a-Family program. Staying true to its mission, FVTC chose student families who have no other resources. They are not receiving any other additional support or agency help outside of this program.
Lisa knows the student families are beyond grateful. She’s already received plenty of feedback and the words of gratitude extend far beyond the magical boxes that will land under the tree.
“All of the students I interviewed expressed how much the faculty and their instructors advocated for them this semester, going above and beyond by spending significantly more time with them on the academic side of things.
“It was just a great reminder that our instructors and staff do whatever they can to support our students. It makes me very proud to work here.”