County looking for sponsors for Adopt-An-Angel program

More than 1,000 children are expected to write letters to Santa Claus through the Lackawanna County Children and Youth Services Adopt-An-Angel program in hope of receiving gifts of school supplies, clothes, toys and even prayers for "grandpa in heaven."

With 600 letters in already, and 100 letters without sponsors, the agency is hoping the community will step forward to give a Christmas to children that CYS works with, many of whom come from families with drug and alcohol addictions or mental health issues.

"I am very sad because my brother (has) been in the hospital three times, and I would be really happy if you could (sprinkle) some of your Christmas magic on him to make (him) all better," wrote one 10-year-old girl to Santa. "P.S. I love Disney princesses."

Children and Youth Services has been running the Adopt-An-Angel program for more than two decades. Children up to age 18 write letters and CYS finds sponsors among businesses and individuals.

Last year, 758 children wrote letters to Santa. Based on how many letters have been received already, the county expects more than 1,000 will be received by Christmas, said Lisa Sohara, a CYS supervisor.

"Some of the kids are in foster care, but most are with family in homes," she said. "For some of these kids, these are the only presents they will have."

CYS provided the Times-Tribune with a sample of letters, which range from requests for uniforms, notebooks, pens and pencils for school, to video games and bicycles. Popular items so far this year are MP3 players and cell phones.

Sponsors aren't expected to dole out hundreds of dollars for video game consoles and shouldn't get upset if a child asks for something that might be expensive, said CYS outreach coordinator Gabrielle Palmieri.

"They ask Santa for what your child would ask for. They don't expect to get everything, but they're kids. It's easy to imagine a cell phone or game system," Ms. Sohara said.

One 11-year-old boy asked for a "PSP," a handheld video game console, but added "I would love anything you bring for me and my sister. Thank you. I will leave milk and cookies for you."

A 16-year-old girl asked for a CD player and "word-find books for my grandma."

"Plus, I would like you to say a prayer for my grandpa in heaven," she added.

The Scranton firefighters union, the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 60, decided to sponsor 75 children this year, said firefighter Brian Murray, the program's coordinator for the union.

After reading the letters, the union has already decided to sponsor another 15 children, he said.

"The common thought is we're firefighters, we can take anything. But for a couple of our guys, reading these letters, they not so much cried but these letters certainly brought down their shield a bit," Mr. Murray said. "These kids are asking for hats, scarves, coats -- things we take for granted -- and we're going to do what we can to help them."

Contact the writer: You can be Santa

Children and Youth Services is looking for individuals, businesses and organizations to sponsor children through its Adopt-An-Angel program. To help, call CYS outreach coordinator Gabrielle Palmieri at 963-6781.

Credit: The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

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