For many fortunate Region residents, the holiday season means family, friends, food and festivities. However, for many less fortunate, the holiday season is filled with sadness and depression. Children learn not to anticipate anything, and parents carry the guilt like a weight.

The Adopt-A-Family program, administered by Franciscan Alliance, reaches out to needy families in Northwest Indiana to help make the holiday season a little brighter.

“For over twenty-five years, we have partnered with WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) to adopt families for the holiday season,” explains Josef Dou, director of Mission and Spiritual Care Services for Franciscan St. Margaret Health in Dyer and Hammond. “We help 60 to 70 families in an average year.”

Departments at the Dyer and Hammond campuses adopt a family, then take up collections for toys, gifts and food. Last year, the two campuses provided gifts and joy to 62 families, with a total of 288 adults and children served.

“In the last five years, we have adopted over 1,200 children and 600 adults,” Dou adds.

Families in need fill out a request form at the Lake County WIC office. The forms are then sent to the hospitals for adoption. Some departments also adopt an employee or patient who has been chosen from their units. Employees also purchase gift cards or food from local grocers for a Christmas dinner for the family to enjoy.

This year, on Dec. 18, a blessing program and celebration will be held at both campuses. The gifts and donations are blessed before they are distributed.

The St. Clare Health Clinic, located in Crown Point, is a primary care provider of non-emergency services with an emphasis on prevention, early detection, patient education, physical exams and health screenings. The clinic also serves those who endure hardship to access quality health care. Franciscan Alliance opened the clinic in 1996, with the goal of providing health care to those who are in need.

Julie Mallers, nurse and manager at St. Clare Health Clinic, says that the clinic sponsors both a Thanksgiving and Christmas program for their needy patients. “Employees collect and donate non-perishable food items for Thanksgiving,” Mallers says. “And, for the last few years, we have been fortunate enough to get 50 turkeys donated annually by the Merrillville Rotary Club. Between the two sources, we make Thanksgiving dinner a reality for less fortunate families.”

The clinic employees collect anonymous donations and distribute gifts as well as donations to families in need during the holiday season. The clinic also hosts a food pantry and clothing closet to assist the patients in need.

“It’s our way of following in the footsteps of St. Francis and St. Clare,” Mallers says. “Our value system places special emphasis on care for the poor and those in hardship.”

Dou says that the local charity work is a microcosm of the Franciscan Alliance philosophy.

“The Adopt-A-Family program is just one example of the many mission programs administered by the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration for the benefit of our area communities in Northwest Indiana,” Dou explains. “In 2014, Franciscan St. Margaret Health contributed $70.2 million toward Community Benefit.”

Franciscan Alliance as a system (with all its 13 hospitals throughout Indiana and South Chicago) contributed $470.8 million toward Community Benefit. “That might be a huge number,” Dou says, “but more importantly, there is a long history beyond those numbers.”

Franciscan Alliance is committed to continuing the mission of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration. Today, the focus remains on providing faith-based, integrated health care. Franciscan Alliance brings together the latest technology, innovative procedures and the brightest, most compassionate people to serve patients in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. Throughout thirteen hospitals and many medical practices, they offer a number of nationally recognized Centers of Health Care Excellence.

Franciscan Alliance remains true to the founding mission to care for everyone who comes through the doors. The organization’s system-wide community outreach program promotes health care, encourages healthy living and offers simple acts of generosity. From providing medical supplies and services to offering educational opportunities and monetary donations, Franciscan Alliance employees attend to the needs of the people and organizations in their communities.

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