By Pauline Masson

Pacific Missourian Editor

The annual family Christmas program, Adopt-A-Family, founded by Cleta Null, is now operating in its new larger quarters at The Following Church at 523 W. St. Louis St.

Elizabeth Forister, who took the helm of the program last year, and a group of volunteers meet at the church on weekdays to accept donated clothing, toys and personal items and sort them for assembly into individual gift bags.

In a series of rooms, donated items are stacked in neat rows sorted by size and gender.

One entire room is filled with bicycles donated by Walmart. Another is filled with toys donated by area churches, civic groups and individuals.

“We have a lot of space here,” Forister said.

The new operation is similar to how Null ran it from her basement with some changes thanks to the increased space.

“Because of the extra space, the organization has been able to adopt more families this year,” Forister said.

Volunteers began filling bags the week before Thanksgiving and will be at it full force in the coming weeks — filling bags for all the families who need it.

“I’ve already received over 267 applications and probably over 700 children,” Forister said. “And we’re receiving more applications every day.”

Adopt-A-Family partners with local schools, churches and civic organizations to provide Christmas assistance to families in need.

School and church volunteers pick up the bags and gift wrap each item to be opened at Christmas.

Families can apply for the program and receive toys, clothing, personal items and age and gender-appropriate gifts.

Each Christmas, Null invites local families and groups to adopt and shop for a family, filling the requests submitted by the applicants.

Families who are facing economic hardship or a household crisis this Christmas can apply to Adopt-A-Family through Meramec Valley R-III schools or at The Following Church.

Individuals who wish to donate clothing items or toys or other gifts can deliver them to the church weekdays.

Funds also are needed to purchase items that were not donated. Checks should be made payable to Adopt-A-Family and mailed or delivered to the church.

For more information contact Forister at elizabeth.forister@gmail.com.