Suburban Hospital 'Adopts' Families With Holiday Donations
The last of 15 adopted families came to Suburban Hospital on Thursday to pick up boxes of toys, food and other holiday goodies the family would otherwise not have had this holiday season. Each year for the last 20 years, Suburban Hospital has reached out to school guidance counselors to find students and families in need of some help around the Christmas season. The hospital's "Adopt-A-Family" program means new bikes, winter coats, grocery store gift cards and more -- bought and donated by hospital staff -- for 15 to 20 Montgomery County families a year. On Thursday, Germantown grandmother Linda Hall and her daughter Tania came to Suburban. Tania has two autistic boys age 6 and 7 and a 21-year-old brother, who all live with Linda. The Halls were grateful and a bit surprised. Monique Sanfuentes, Suburban's director of community health and wellness, helps run the program. "A lot of the time, there's a lot of pride associated with not wanting any help, especially with getting gifts for the holidays for your family," Sanfuentes said. "We want them to end up with a really nice holiday surprise. It's building stronger families, maybe making sure a family has resources so a mom can work and isn't overstressed." Suburban clinicians donated a cart full of boxes of food and gifts. Sanfuentes said her staff started reaching out to guidance counselors at four MCPS elementary schools in October. The guidance counselors help identify kids who are going through hardships at home and Suburban contacts the families to get permission before sending out word to its various medical departments. This year, Suburban adopted 15 families -- a total of 24 parents and 49 children. "It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with having a surgery or coming to the hospital to get something done," Sanfuentes said. "It's more community health improvement." Most of the families in the program have kids who are on a Free and Reduced Price Meals program at their schools. During the long winter break, there's a real need to provide enough food in school's absence. Many parents who come to the hospital do so on buses, taxis or by borrowing a friend's car. Earlier this week, hospital staff gave one parent who arrived by bus a ride home. He wasn't expecting five boxes worth of goods. Sanfuentes said many parents don't know what to say. "The idea is that maybe one day they'll be able to help someone else," Sanfuentes said.