SERVE 6.8 prepares for holidays with Adopt-A-Family changes


Anna Henning

An example Adopt-A-Family tree is set up in the toy room. Beside it, hundreds or ornaments with gift requests are sorted to be taken into the community.

Anna Henning, Editor in Chief

With the holiday season right around the corner, local nonprofits are gearing up to serve the community of Northern Colorado. Within the hardships that 2020 has brought, nonprofit organization SERVE 6.8 is aiming to support as many people in Fort Collins as possible. They have several outreach programs special for the holidays, including Adopt-A-Family, which Fossil Ridge High School participates in annually. I spent a day at SERVE 6.8’s center to help with preparation for Thanksgiving, and learned a lot about the organization in the process.

SERVE 6.8 was founded over a decade ago to provide resources for families in times of crisis. This nonprofit is a Christian organization, which partners with forty churches in Northern Colorado, and assists over 10,000 families a year. Their goal is to equip churches to help families in their communities with all the resources needed. SERVE 6.8 aims to have no financial impact on churches that are a part of their outreach. In addition to the organization’s staff which coordinates events and outreach across churches, SERVE 6.8 has a huge volunteer database. People can sign up to volunteer in a variety of ways, and they are always looking for help serving our local community.

Mike Walker, Executive Director, explains, “Our whole ministry here is designed to meet people in some type of crisis, and then wrap services and support around them.”

Everyone who comes here can get access to services of support, regardless of their economic situation or their legal status.”

— Mike Walker

These services and supports focus on those who are single mothers, elderly, disabled, widows, disaster survivors, immigrants, low-income families, and kids in the foster and adoptive care system. They offer a variety of services such as food distribution, clothing distribution, rental assistance, car care, legal advice, and disaster relief. For example, legal help is offered to those struggling with the legal aspect of debt, custody, or immigration status by giving access to an hour of free legal consultation. This helps people create a long-term plan of next steps to get back on their feet. 

Walker is especially passionate about supporting widows, and it was one of the ways he wanted SERVE 6.8 to help when he helped found this organization. “My heart beats strongly for widows, folks who just don’t have anybody else anymore in their lives, and they need somebody they can count on. All the sudden, they’re alone. And it’s a very emotionally traumatic experience for them to go through, especially for widows whose spouses used to do all the things around the house that they didn’t know how to do. So we kind of step in to fill some of those gaps in their lives,” Walker says.

I recently volunteered at SERVE 6.8, where I helped prepare for Thanksgiving. There were eight total volunteers signed up for my time slot, including my mother and I. During my time, three pairs of volunteers were sent to buy Thanksgiving foods from different stores. They were given shopping lists and credit cards with large orders—each group was instructed to buy 200 boxes of stuffing, among other things. 

A few of the shelves I stocked for Thanksgiving. More donations and deliveries will make these shelves overflow soon. (Anna Henning)

Before the groups arrived back at the center, I began to sort Thanksgiving food donations in the basement. This area, full of clothing donations, school supplies, and other items served as a warehouse to keep donations sorted and stored. I worked in a section of shelves, each labeled for specific foods such as brownie mix, canned yams, green beans, and mashed potato mix. Personally, I enjoyed sorting these items and stacking them, as I love organizing things. 

After about two hours, the other volunteers returned with their purchases, what began as empty shelves became stocked full of classic Thanksgiving foods. During different volunteer times, people will help box a few of each food item. These will be distributed to churches around Northern Colorado, which will give out the food to families in need. Upon receiving their Thanksgiving meals, families will be given a gift card to a grocery store to pick out their own turkey. The boxes will be specifically packed to accommodate family sizes as well. 

When I had a bit of spare time before shoppers came back to the center, I sorted through non-Thanksgiving food donations and put them away in SERVE 6.8’s pantry, which is upstairs. Stocked with tons of food donations, there is plenty of variety to cater to individual families’ needs. There was also baby food, diapers, toilet paper, and hygiene items stored there.

A small portion of the food pantry, which is tucked behind a desk at the resource center. Families can request specific foods, and a staff member or volunteer will prepare a bag of food. (Anna Henning)

All the staff and volunteers there were super friendly, and we made light work of hundreds of cans and boxes of food. Being in such a cheerful serving environment was so much fun. I also felt very safe since everyone wore masks and maintained social distancing. The volunteer groups are currently maximized at ten to fifteen people, depending on the event, so not too many people are handling toys, clothing, or food packages.

For years, as Christmas approaches, Fossil has participated in Adopt-A-Family, supporting around a hundred families. Traditionally, each advisory class partners with a family in Fort Collins, and buys gifts for them. These gifts are wrapped and taken to the Media Center, waiting for families to pick them up. Fossil typically hosts a night where families are invited for dinner and activities, and it is an opportunity for Fossil students to interact with these families and deliver their gifts in person.

Unfortunately, that will all change this year, due to health and safety concerns from COVID-19, SERVE 6.8 is not allowing any direct family adoptions this year. However, this does not mean that Fossil cannot participate in Adopt-A-Family. In other areas of Fort Collins, such as businesses, SERVE 6.8 sets up Christmas trees with paper ornaments on them for people to take. Each ornament has an age and a gift request on it. For example, one might say “Girl, 17, Blanket.” For those who grab these ornaments, they buy the item instructed and return the unwrapped gift under the tree at the business.

The toy room, stocked full of donations left over from last year’s Adopt-A-Family. Soon, there will be even more donations from schools and businesses across Northern Colorado. (Anna Henning)

Fossil will operate in a similar fashion this year. Advisory students will assign each student a single gift to purchase, which should be dropped off at Fossil by December 12. These gifts will be taken to SERVE 6.8’s center, and sorted into what they call the “toy room.” This room holds all their Adopt-A-Family donations, so volunteers can easily go through and grab what families have requested. 

Fossil students are encouraged to help pack for families, and there will be times that they can sign up to help. These spots are limited to keep the number of people handling these toys down and allow for social distancing to be practiced. When packing, a volunteer will get a list of requested gifts for a family, which they will grab from the toy room and place in a black trash bag. These bags will be loaded into the adopted families’ cars. The purpose of the black bag is so kids do not know what is inside, and their gifts remain a surprise.

Chrissy McCoormick, who coordinates for Adopt-A-Family, wants students to leave their donations unwrapped. “We want the families to feel some sense of the Christmas spirit too, wrapping gifts is really fun for families.”

To students who really enjoy being involved in Adopt-A-Family, McCoormick recommends helping pack gifts in the toy room. “There are so many stories of people who are going through really hard times and it kind of breaks your heart and you want to cry with them. Just seeing their faces light up when you give them those gifts, it makes it all worth it. It’s so fun [to pack toys] and you got that good feeling of helping someone.” McCoormick’s favorite part of Adopt-A-Family is working with the families and listening to their stories. She believes SERVE 6.8 is the best nonprofit because there are so many different ways to get involved in something you are passionate about.

[We want to] build up their confidence level, so they know that they’re worth more than just being given free stuff.”

— Chrissy McCoormick

As a Christian organization, SERVE 6.8 aspires to focus on more than just the material services. “The work that’s done is not actually the main focus, the focus of SERVE 6.8 is to build the local church by equipping to be present for their neighbors every day. [People] think oh, you’re here just to serve people in this community crisis. But actually it’s to connect those people who are hurting and isolated, and full of all kinds of issues in their lives to a body of believers.” 

If you are interested in volunteering at SERVE 6.8, you can sign up on their website. You can help in their resource center by stocking food in the pantry, keeping the fridges full, sorting clothing donations, and helping to distribute those items. Positions are limited for safety, and volunteers are required to wear masks. You can also donate to SERVE 6.8 if you would like to.

“The goals are to help as many people as we can because we know it’s been a tough year for a lot of people. We just want to help people and let them know that things are okay and it’s just material things that you shouldn’t worry about,” states McCoormick.

A major section of SERVE 6.8’s basement holds racks of sorted clothes. These get transferred upstairs to the distribution center as needed. (Anna Henning)