When Cindy Copeland moved to Guelph over 10 years ago from Toronto, she wanted to get out and meet some new people and get involved in the community. She decided volunteering would be a great way to do so. Cindy found the Children’s Foundation Adopt-A-Family program and has now been with the program for 11 years.
Since she first began volunteering, the Adopt-A-Family program has grown from supporting a few hundred families to now helping over 900 families. Cindy shared that, “when the program first started, it was literally run out of the purse of one of the founding Adopt-A-Family volunteers. A family was referred by a social worker, money would come out of that purse to go shop for them, and the need would be met. It wasn’t formal, there was no tracking or paperwork, it was simply a few women who cared about children and families in need. We felt this special season was one time when we could come together to make someone’s life a little brighter.”
“It is just humbling that there are so many families right here in Guelph and Wellington County that simply cannot make Christmas happen for their children,” said Cindy. Her affection and commitment to this cause is contagious and spreads both through the Adopt-A-Family workshop and her personal life. Cindy’s family members and friends get involved in many different ways because of her enthusiasm and her family is very supportive of her volunteerism because they are very proud of what she does.
Cindy works close to full-time for a few months leading up to Christmas, but it doesn’t stop there as she works throughout the year preparing for the season. One of Cindy’s personal traditions is using cloth gift bags instead of paper wrapping as there is just so much waste. She decided the Adopt-A-Family families should be part of this tradition as well. Cindy purchases fabric all year and Adopt-A-Family takes over her home for months before the holidays as she organizes sewing bees to make these gift bags. This year, Cindy and her sewing elves have made over 1,000 cloth gift bags. Cindy says, “What’s really nice is a lot of the bags are not holiday prints so they can be used by the families year round. Hopefully, this allows the families to carry these warm feelings with them wherever they go.”
Cindy speaks fondly of one close friend who, along with her sister and 94-year old mother, makes handmade quilts for the program. This friend doesn’t even live in Guelph, and yet she still chooses the Adopt-A-Family program to donate over 40 beautiful handmade quilts, just so the families will feel loved and special over the holiday season.
In speaking about the challenges of volunteer work, Cindy admitted that there can be times when things seem difficult. “Years ago, the program was run solely by volunteers which was a lot of work, and there were at times conflicting views and ideas of what to do. There is no permanent home for Adopt-a-Family, so every year the program is faced with the challenge of finding a suitable location. The setting up and tearing down is a lot of work.”
Cindy’s volunteer work is a big commitment and there are things in her personal life that go without in order to make this program happen. In spite of the sacrifice and the challenges over the years Cindy said, “it’s the warm, fuzzy feeling that I get working on the program that keeps me coming back.” She was quick to add that, “ the Adopt-A-Family volunteers are only one piece of the puzzle. There is also the donors, the families and the social workers that are part of the whole.” But Cindy sees the Adopt-A-Family volunteers as “the glue that holds it all together.” Cindy’s reward is seeing the outcome of all the hard work and so many families being supported over the holidays. That is true meaning of Christmas to an Adopt-A-Family volunteer.
By volunteering with Adopt-A-Family, Cindy has not only found a meaningful way to give back to her community, she has also developed wonderful friendships and lasting memories.
The Children’s Foundation is indebted to all the volunteers who tirelessly run the Adopt-A-Family Program year after year. “It’s amazing how many volunteers come back every year to work together in order to create a special Christmas for children,” commented Program Director, Karyn Kirkwood. “Cindy, like so many of our volunteers, shies away from the spotlight, preferring to shine the light on the whole team. Her leadership at Santa’s workshop exemplifies all the best qualities one would expect in one of Santa’s elves, and I can’t imagine the program without her warmth, humour, and can-do attitude on the team.”
Let us take this opportunity to say thank you to Cindy for all of her efforts over the years. She has made such a huge difference in the lives of so many families.