'A beautiful feeling': Detroit family adopted for Christmas

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Hermonie Sanders opened her front door to a full sleigh and elves waiting to fill her living room days before Christmas.

Sanders, a single mother who cares for four children and one granddaughter, rents a home on the city's northeast side. Living paycheck to paycheck, she was able to purchase one gift each for her children but said she felt they deserved more.

To her surprise, others thought so too. 

Hermonie Sanders, center, 37, reads a Telemus Christmas card with a $100 gift card enclosed as her children, left to right, London Sanders, 10, Paris Sanders, 15, O'monie Kemp, 20, and Italy Sanders, 6, listen as O'monie holds her six-month-old daughter, Za'Nyra Kendrix, Hermonie's granddaughter.

Workers from Telemus, a Southfield-based financial services firm, "adopted" the Sanders family and surprised them Friday by delivering poinsettias and more than 50 wrapped gifts to put under their colorful tree.

"It's a blessing from God, it really is," said Sanders, 37. "I did work hard to get them what I could but it's really awesome to receive more because giving kids what they want is a beautiful feeling."

Sanders applied through Volunteers of America for household essentials and school supplies. While Sanders was informed early this month that she had been chosen, she said watching her children's surprise was the best gift of all. She cares for O'monie Kemp, 20; Paris Sanders Jr., 15; London Sanders, 10; Italy Sanders, 6, and her 6-month-old granddaughter Za'Nyra Kendrix.

"My three younger children go to school and get good grades, so I wanted to make sure that they have a Christmas they deserve," she said. "They go to school and work hard to bring home A/B report cards and I want them to keep it up."

Italy Sanders, 6, reads name tags on the delivered Christmas gifts from Telemus employees, in conjunction with Volunteers of America.

Tracy Almassy and four co-workers from Telemus helped adopt the family for the holidays. Almassy said employees fundraise all year and save the proceeds to fund two holiday gifts: one in Detroit and one in Chicago, where the company also has offices.

"We knew we wanted to have a six-person family and we loved every part of this, shopping for them, wrapping gifts as a team, and one of our co-workers loved it so much, she and her husband adopted another family for the holidays," Almassy said.

She said they bought lots of toys and puzzles, as well as essentials including fuzzy blankets, sheets, towels, pajamas, diapers, underwear, coats, boots, school supplies and socks and shoes. They also gave the family a $100 gift card for a holiday meal.

Johannah Schiffer, left, of Huntington Woods, Telemus director of people and places, and financial advisor Thomas Munoz, right, of Troy, deliver gifts to Hermonie Sanders, background-center, 37, and her four children and granddaughter, Friday afternoon.

"There have been a couple of times when it's been hard like this year and last year, but I just pray about it and it works out," Sanders said. "We're going to open the one gift I gave them on Christmas Eve and I think that'll be a new tradition."

The family loves playing board games, including Jenga and Monopoly, and the girls hoped for "Frozen" toys to play with.

"My mom is a very strong, independent woman who doesn’t need any help but she has us as her family to help her," Kemp said. "With me being the oldest, I try to help keep the kids where they need to be. But this is wonderful for all of us. This is probably the most they’ve got in years. We are very blessed."

Hermonie Sanders, right, hugs Telemus receptionist Tracy Almassy, of White Lake, after she and co-workers delivered Christmas gifts.


Twitter: @SarahRahal_