The classic “teach a man to fish” proverb takes on a new meaning at Family Scholar House, whose mission is to end the cycle of poverty by giving single parent students the support they need to earn a college degree. With 175 single-parent families living on three campuses in Louisville (with a fourth being added in the Parkland neighborhood of western Louisville next year) and Southern Indiana, as well as 659 families who are receiving services while awaiting available housing, the program enables individuals to emerge from poverty, homelessness and, often, domestic abuse – transforming their lives and creating new opportunities for their children. I talked with Family Scholar House president and CEO Cathe Dykstra about the Adopt-A-Family program, which allows members of the community and area businesses to make some holiday wishes come true.
Lori Kommor: How is this a great opportunity for the community to get involved?
Cathe Dykstra: Family Scholar House’s Adopt-A-Family program allows our community to share the spirit and joy of the holiday season with the disadvantaged single-parent FSH families. We match generous friends with a FSH family – comprised of a single parent college student and one or more children.
Armed with holiday wish lists for each member of a family, families, businesses and church and community groups shop for gifts that our families need – along with a few items they want – to make the holiday season special. Living on limited income and attending school full-time while being a single parent, studying and working, there isn’t much room left in the budget for holiday presents.
While this program makes a huge difference in the lives of our families, particularly our parents who may not be able to afford new shoes, much less a new toy for their children, we have found that many of our donors find it incredibly rewarding to shop for gifts for families who cannot afford gifts, but are headed by parents who are working so hard every day to create a financially secure future for their children.
We have had parents take their children to shop for FSH families with children of the same age, and coaches take their teams shopping for several families to teach generosity and concern for those in need, and we have had book clubs and Bible study groups adopt families as a holiday philanthropic project. By helping others, we are ultimately helping ourselves. It’s incredibly simple.
L.K.: How have businesses gotten involved?
C.D.: We’ve had businesses get involved by adopting multiple families – and then letting clients and associates know that in place of fruit baskets or poinsettias, they adopted a family in honor of those clients and colleagues. We’ve also had offices adopt families and do the shopping as a holiday team-building activity – or even a competition between departments.
I think people really like the fact that we are right here in Louisville and that our families are working hard to improve their lives and futures. Like everyone else, they want their children to enjoy the special holiday, and I am grateful to the many people and businesses in our community who come forward each year and share the holidays with our families.
L.K.: How can people learn more about Adopt-A-Family?
C.D.: Learning more about Adopt-A-Family is simple. Visit our website at www.familyscholarhouse.org for more information, or just call 502.813.3086. Our staff works to match each donor/shopper up with a family that fits their request. We then ask that donors bring the gifts to us – wrapped, if possible, or unwrapped with wrapping supplies – and we make sure the gifts get to each family.
This year’s deadline for gifts from the community is Dec. 5. Although gifts are sent “From Santa,” our families want to express their gratitude, so parents send a note of thanks, along with a holiday craft made by each child. It may sound a bit cliché, but it really brings home the true meaning of Christmas.