The gift room at AFL-CIO will begin operating earlier this year so that families that aren’t adopted can safely shop separate of one another.

The Adopt-A-Family program is halfway towards its goal of assisting all of the families who applied for Christmas help amid this year’s pandemic.

AFL-CIO Executive Director Penny Adams wishes adoptions were closer to 75% as 408 people still need adopted.

“We’re seeing a lot of our regular adopters, but the ones that (normally) take multiple families are not taking as many,” Adams said.

That’s no surprise as the regular adopters may be feeling the economic pressure from the pandemic that the rest of the community is also facing.

The Adopt-A-Family program through AFL-CIO began in the mid 1970s, but this year the agency has made changes to the program to keep the community safe, such as only offering new gifts this year to cut down on COVID-19 transmission.

“We ask every adopter that picks a family, say with children, they provide at least one new gift for each child,” Adams said.

It’s suggested adopters spend about $50 per child under 8 years old and $100 for older children.

One of the gift requests from families that would be unusual in years past makes perfect sense in 2020.

“Toilet paper and paper towels, that’s on everybody’s list,” Adams said.

The thing that hasn’t changed through the years has been the goodwill that individuals receive from adopting a family, Adams said.

“The adopters call us up and say we get as much out of this as if we were getting the gifts ourselves,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of people who have lost a loved one, and they are not in the holiday spirit at all but still want to do something, so they have adopted a family in honor of the person they’ve lost.”

The St. Joseph Parks Department has decided to adopt families in lieu of its normal Mayor’s Christmas Party, which isn’t being held this year due to COVID-19 safety concerns. The department has adopted four families as an organization, with some of the employees choosing to adopt additional families, as well.

Those who are interested in adopting a family can call AFL-CIO at 816-363-1131. Adopters can review families up for adoption to find the best fit for the holiday season.

Last year 789 families were adopted through the program.

Ryan Hennessy can be reached at Follow him on twitter: @NPNowHennessy.