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Finley: Adopt a family this holiday

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

This is what need looks like in our community: A broom. Disinfectant. Towels. Blankets. Soap. Paper towels.

When I agreed to adopt a family from Escuela Avancemos Academy in Southwest Detroit for Christmas, I expected their wish list to read a lot like the ones I get from my grandkids, filled with the toys and treats that make the holiday a child’s delight.

Instead, the list I received was topped by the things mentioned above, the sort of basic housekeeping items most of us toss into our shopping baskets at Meijer without a second thought.

But for this family of six, their quality of life depends on the ability to keep their home clean. Having had to recently leave one apartment because of a roach infestation caused by a landlord’s neglect, the parents are determined to give their children a sanitary environment.

And so cleaning supplies top their Christmas list.

These are parents trying desperately to make a better life for their children. The mother works nights at a factory in Milan, nearly a 100 mile round-trip drive each day, and then volunteers at the Escuela charter school during the day. The father recently lost his job and is looking for work.

They aren’t slackers. Their children, ages 2, 3, 6 and 8, aren’t neglected — far from it. They work hard, are deeply involved in the school and are committed to their community.

But breaks have gone against them. They don’t expect to be down forever, but they are down this year, and could use a little help.

There are families just like them across Metro Detroit.

Most aren’t looking for anything extravagant. They’d be happy to be relieved of some of their basic monthly needs during the holidays. Escuela Avancemos identified 12 such families at its school, all of whom now have sponsors.

A call to almost any church, school or charitable organization will turn up a family that could use some help. It’s surprising how inexpensive it is to make Christmas a bit brighter for those in need.

Adopting a family connects you more directly to your donation. The family I’m shopping for has roots in Kentucky and hoped to find more opportunity in Detroit than they could back home. Their circumstances strike a personal chord, since my family came here from the same place, and for the same reason. And we had some lean Christmases of our own.

Well down the list the family submitted are some optional items for the kids — a skate board and a few other active toys, school clothes. They specifically requested no electronics; they don’t want the children glued to a video screen. I’m pretty sure Santa can come through.

Better times have come to our state. More people are working, and that means a greater general prosperity. But it isn’t universal, and perhaps never will be. A lot of people are still struggling, and the simplest additional expense — cleaning supplies, school clothes, shoes — can trigger a wave of anxiety.

If your family is doing OK this holiday season, you might consider adopting one that isn’t. It doesn’t take much to make a difference.

(313) 222-2064

Follow Nolan Finley at, on Twitter at nolanfinleydn, on Facebook at nolanfinleydetnews and watch him at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays on “MiWeek” on Detroit Public TV, Channel 56.