SARAH HALL- Helping Families-in-Need this Christmas, through MMM’s Adopt a Family.
Sarah Hall, founder and primary organizer of MMM’s Adopt a Family, shares the story of how a dedicated group of Mom’s from Morinville, help make Christmas for families-in- need.
“I’ve never looked at it as a hand out, it’s a hand up,” says Sarah Hall. Sarah is the primary organizer of MMM’s Adopt a Family, who last year sponsored Christmas for 31 families-in-need in Morinville and surrounding area.
MMM which stands for Morinville’s Marvelous Moms, is a moms’ and kids’ play and support group that Sarah founded in 2011 after moving to the community with young kids and struggling to make new friends.
“Within two weeks we had 124 Facebook members, and it really kickstarted my life in Morinville. Suddenly it was this huge social outlet with a bunch of parents who identified as also feeling isolated and needing to network and get to know people. Now we have over 1400 members.” This was Sarah’s first big contribution to Morinville, which was really just the beginning.
Sarah was nominated for a Sturgeon County National Women’s Day Award in 2013 for her work with MMM, which she explains “was so important to me because it validated that there was a need for this type of service for parents in our area. I strongly believe when the need arises, so do you.” Rising to a need was exactly how MMM Adopt a Family came about.
In November 2012 Sarah was approached by someone who knew a family in the Sandy Beach area who needed help at Christmas. The family, due to geographical location and being cross borders between towns, ran into some roadblocks with finding the help they needed. At the same time, Misty Featherlee, another local mom and member of MMM, had adopted a family from the Morinville Food Bank for Christmas. The two of them put it to the MMM’s to see who could help with what for these two families. “It just exploded,” Sarah says, “we put it to the Facebook group and before we knew it, the school had donated space for us to use and people kept stepping up and offering more.”
By the end of that first Christmas, MMM’s had sponsored 13 families-in-need, and it all came together in about a six week window. The MMM’s provide everything a family would need over the holidays including a month’s worth of food, gifts, cleaning supplies, toiletries and pet food.
Sarah reminisces about the first year she did deliveries to the adopted families. “I brought my nine year old son with me, and when we walked into the home with all these presents and food, the two boys that lived there marveled over the amount of food. They didn’t even notice the presents, they were just so thankful that we brought them more to eat than their house had ever seen at one time.” Sarah’s son was moved to tears from these two little boys desperation for a full pantry. She still brings her own family with her on delivery weekend.
From that first year, the MMM’s have gotten a lot better at the process of adopting families at Christmas. Thanks to community connections, referrals start to come in for families-in-need the first week of November. From that point, the MMM’s and the other two agencies in town that adopt families, the Morinville Food Bank and the Knights of Columbus, come together to ensure no duplication occurs between the three individual charities. Last year 45 applications were received by MMM, and 31 of those families were adopted. The remaining 14 were supported by the two other organizations.
Once the families are selected, the donations start rolling in. Six MMM collection bins are situated throughout the town of Morinville. The bins can be found at Sturgeon School Division, Morinville Teen Centre, Animal Wellness Vet Clinic, Curves, Higher Grounds Coffee Shop, Champion Pet Foods and Morinville Vet Clinic. Non-perishable food items, toys, gifts, toiletries and cleaning products are all accepted in the collection bins.
“We always need a warm place to set up shop for December. This year we are so happy that the Town of Morinville is donating space for MMM’s at the Ray McDonald Sports Centre. Last year, 6 adult wrappers spent one whole 8 hour day wrapping gifts, non-stop. This year we have the teens from the Morinville Teen Centre stepping up to do all of our wrapping which will be a huge help,” Sarah explains.
The opportunity exists as well for individuals or families to adopt families-in-need through MMM’s over Christmas. Last year Costco took on a whole family and often groups of neighbors will come together to do the same. This year a group of school bus drivers have already stepped forward with all of the winter-gear a specific family needs.
The month of December is incredibly busy for Sarah, who had just finished doing her own families’ entire Christmas shopping in two days, along with two other MMM Adopt a Family organizers. Sarah and her other helpers have learned that they have to get their families shopping done before December begins as the month flies by. The first week of December Sarah starts going through emails to identify which families need what support, and donations from generous community members will begin to flood in. The rest of her month will be completely consumed in the MMM’s initiative.
There is no hierarchy, no board and no titles in the MMM’s Adopt a Family campaign, just a group of dedicated people who want to help others in their community. Volunteers step forward to help with everything, from collecting to delivering and everything in between. Sarah has noticed a trend in the last few years, that often families that receive the one-time support from MMM’s then pay it forward when they are back on their feet, and come to the table with hands to help or things to donate.
Sarah was raised in Southern Saskatchewan, one of seven siblings with a single mom. Sarah was no stranger to turning to food banks for the first two years that her mom was on her own, and can identify to feeling the need for help from when she was a child. Sarah has four of her own children and extends herself within her community, beyond the MMM’s Adopt a Family campaign. She also sits on numerous community boards, runs her own business and provides before and after school care in her home. She is one busy lady, with one big heart.
Two years ago, towards the end of delivery day (always the weekend before Christmas), Sarah arrived at the wrong house bearing food and gifts for the family that she thought lived there. When the door opened, instead of who she expected, it was a family of six girls and a mom, living in a dilapidated home with little decor and an obvious need for some support. The delivery drivers loaded the car back up to bring the items to the correct family but also went back to the working space they were in that year and found as much as they could to bring back to the family of six girls. “The family spoke little English and didn’t even celebrate Christmas, but that wasn’t the point. We went to the wrong house, but we went to the right to house, you know? The mother was so emotional over the support and the oldest daughter just kept translating her gratitude, ” Sarah says.
When I asked Sarah how Christmas is different now for her family, in a calm and humble voice she said, “As a child, my family did not celebrate Christmas and we never had holiday traditions of our own. One particularly hard year, neighbours of ours brought us hampers of food. I remember my mom breaking down and crying while we went through those boxes of miracle food. I’ll never forget that night as long as I live. MMM’s Adopt a Family has become my families tradition now and I love that my children see and experience firsthand what it truly means to give. The impact they can have on one person or family can ripple into the future and that is how I believe we change the world. In each act of kindness.”