BRADLEY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Conn. --
During the holidays, the Connecticut National Guard sponsors the Adopt-a-Family program to assist Army and Air National Guard families with their financial needs.
Families that are in need of financial assistance during the holiday season apply for the program and are matched with a family that has volunteered to assist, or adopt them. While the program, which kicks off each year in November, has proven to be successful, it is not as widely known as some would like it to be. Kasey Timberlake, 103rd Airlift Wing Airman & Family Readiness Program Manager, wants to inform every Connecticut National Guard member about the program, so that more Guard families may seek help during the holidays if they need it.
Many people are familiar with the Operation E.L.F. (Embracing Lonely Families) program, which generates new unwrapped toys, gift cards, seasonal services and monetary contributions to support Connecticut National Guard families who have been separated due to deployment. The Adopt-a-Family program runs concurrently with Operation E.L.F. According to Kim Hoffman, Connecticut Family Program Director, the Adopt-a-Family program began when people asked how they could help military families, both in and out of the deployment cycle.
“It started a few years after Operation ELF when we had a combination of people asking how they could help a specific family while concurrently being asked by service members not necessarily in the deployment cycle, if there was any assistance during the holiday season,” said Hoffman. “It was truthfully that simple. We sent an email announcing the program and had an enormous response from people wanting to adopt and people needing to be adopted.”
Guardsmen self-identify as needing assistance, then fill out an application to be adopted. At the same time, requests are sent out for people to adopt. Churches, businesses, and others in the community have come forward to adopt Connecticut Army and Air National Guard families during the holidays.
“We send requests to all the National Guardsmen across the state letting them know that, if they anticipate some financial hardship or struggle over the holiday season, that we are here to help,” said Timberlake. “We ask that the donor and the person applying ask for the basic necessities first: Do they have boots, socks, hats, gloves and warm coats for the winter? Lets take care of that stuff first and then we also have the ability to get them some toys.”
Financial hardship is the most common issue that Guardsmen seek help for in November and December.
“There is absolutely a need for this program. One of the main reasons people visit me is for financial assistance,” said Timberlake. “If people can’t fill their oil tank or if they’re having trouble paying their electricity bill, there’s an ability to do it through this program. It’s not necessarily material things; it could be just quality of life within the home that is being taken care of too.”
After receiving financial assistance through the Adopt-a-Family program, families are put in contact with a financial counselor. Program applicants must be members of the Army or Air Guard. For more information about the Adopt-a-Family program and other financial assistance programs that are available throughout the year, Connecticut Army and Air National Guard members can contact 103rd Airlift Wing Airman & Family Readiness at 860-292-2730.