MUD sat down with Arlete Perez Paez, program manager of the Volunteer Office at Sacred Heart University about the annual Adopt-A-Family event.
It’s the holiday season and everyone is busy with shopping, holiday traditions, or planning vacations. However, while the majority of people are focusing on enjoying the holidays there are many who need some help during the holidays. If you want to give back to the community during the holiday season, take a look at Adopt-A-Family. MUD had the opportunity to speak to Arlette Perez Paez, the program manager of the volunteer service office at Sacred Heart University (SHU). She spoke about what this event offers to the people of the community in Bridgeport, CT, and how students can show their support for this cause.
Adopt-A-Family is a volunteer opportunity that allows students and members of the Bridgeport community to provide gifts and meals to families in need. This event seeks to bring joy on Christmas Day to families in need in the Bridgeport Area. Arlettle shared how the event first got started and what it means to the community.
“This great tradition started years ago with former Volunteer Program and Service Learning employee Phyllis Machledt. She is part of the Golden Hill community and could see the need in that community.” Arlette went on to speak about what the event entails.“We participate with St Charles Church and Golden Hill Church, who provide us with wish lists for gifts and suggested food lists for families in need. Every year the Sacred Heart community adopts 80 families.”
She explains the meaning of this event and how it is about the community both at the school and in the neighboring town coming together to help families who are struggling especially around the holidays.
SHU is known for its large community involvement in the town of Bridgeport. Over the course of the fall and spring semester the school offers many opportunities for students to give back to the community. When asked about why students should consider participating in Adopt-a-Family, Arlette explained that, “It is a wonderful feeling to know you have made a family in need happy during the holidays, that thanks to you they were able to open a gift that day, that those families can feel that someone cares for them. The Princeton Review ranks SHU as one of the top 10 colleges in the country with students who give back to their community. It is because of that special commitment, because of that wonderful generosity, because of all we do together!” Getting involved in this particular event shows the people of Bridgeport that students genuinely care about the community. In addition, there are various other ways that students can help support this event, even if they don’t feel comfortable adopting a family over the holiday season. For example, Arlette listed out ways that other students have helped this cause from afar, “We make it very easy to participate. You can adopt a family, bring donations, or donate online. We will work with you to accommodate your help.” When it comes to volunteering there is no action that is too small, every little bit goes a long way!
Arlette shared a story from last year about the gratitude that Adopt-a-Family received from the families they helped. “Last year because of COVID we gave families gift cards. We heard back that families went to the mall and had their special ‘shopping day.’ It was great to hear that they had fun buying their gifts. Families are always thankful to the SHU community.” This program has been a great opportunity for families in need to still feel the joy of the holidays and it is the work from the faculty and the students at Sacred Heart University’s volunteer office that are making a difference in their lives.
Before ending our discussion, Arlette spoke about the message she hopes students take away from this experience. “We cannot accomplish this tradition without the generosity of the SHU community. We are a great community that cares and helps their neighbors. We are the heart of the campus!”
The season isn’t just a time for shopping and watching football on TV. It’s a time for giving, being thankful, and showing compassion to those who may not be so fortunate. By participating in this event, you can still give someone a wonderful holiday.