A Christmas experience not soon forgotten
Nashelly's kids were nervous, but the excitement shone on their faces. They stepped out of their mom’s car and took in the view: Gigantic fire trucks in front of a fire station.
Usually St. Vincent de Paul's holiday Adopt-a-Family program takes place at family's homes. The program pairs families in holiday need with families able to provide presents and a special meal. But this was no typical visit.
The fire chief stepped out of the building to greet the Bahena Betanzos family and welcome them inside. Instead of going to the family's house, the Laveen Fire Station crew created an extra special Christmas experience for the family by hosting them at the station.
The fire chief showed Nashelly and her kids around the garage, then gave them a tour of the station, finishing with a special meal and presents under a Christmas tree.
The Bahena Betanzos family are regular guests at SVdP's Family Dining Room. That’s where Nashelly, mom of the family, said she heard about the Adopt-a-Family program.
“I wanted to get involved in this because obviously with things like with the economy, I could really use that additional support,” Nashelly said.
For so many of the families SVdP serves, this time of year can be extra tough. Already budgets are stretched thin simply trying to cover monthly bills while also putting food on the table. Often, there isn't any money leftover for presents and special ingredients for a holiday meal.
That's why Nashelly's family felt blessed to participate in SVdP's Adopt-a-Family program and have been paired with the fire station. Not only was the Laveen crew kind enough to provide presents, but they also hosted them for an evening and cooked up a special meal right on site. The family almost couldn’t believe who they had been adopted by.
“I had already told the kids they were going to the fire station and they were so excited. They couldn't even go to sleep the night before because they were so excited,” Nashelly said. “The day when they went for the tour, Victoria dressed up fully red so that she could match with the firefighters.”
When the family arrived, the firefighters were ready.
First, one of the on-duty firefighters showed the kids one of the fire hoses and they shot off some water. Then, they gave them a tour of the inside of the station, showing the bunkrooms of the firefighters and ending outside with the fire truck. They topped it off with a quick ride in the engine!
“It was really beautiful, especially because they took us on a tour. For Manuel (3 years old), it was really sweet because he was in shock! Like, ‘I can't believe this is happening!’” Nashelly said. “And then the older ones, it was nice because they got to see all the equipment.”
After the fun, they brought the family into the station’s recreation room for present time. Victoria was excited for her LEGO Friends set, and Alejandro was equally ecstatic with his LEGO Minecraft set.
Manuel got action figures, and the mom was blessed with diapers and other maternity goods to help with their coming baby.
Afterwards, everyone enjoyed together a pulled pork and chicken dinner with a Christmas movie to round out the holiday cheer.
“They went above and beyond for us,” Nashelly said. “A lot of people wouldn't cook the food, they would just bring it, but they went the extra mile to cook it for us and make us feel super special that day.”
She hopes that the experience teaches her children a lesson about generosity.
“When they grow older, I hope that they can remember this and help others the same way,” Nashelly said.
It’s certainly a Christmas the Bahena Betanzos family won’t soon forget.
“The present part was really good, but that's obviously secondary,” Nashelly said. “The experience itself, we got to live an experience that we never lived before.”
There's still time to help!
While Adopt-a-Family has ended, you can still help families in need this season by donating so that SVdP can provide gift cards to families that may come in last minute seeking holiday help.
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