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Christmas arrives early for 30 families, thanks to Federal Way police and Grace Church

Mary Longoria holds Haley Hernandez and a bag of gifts Friday at the Adopt-A-Family event at Adelaide Elementary School. - Jacinda Howard/The Mirror
Mary Longoria holds Haley Hernandez and a bag of gifts Friday at the Adopt-A-Family event at Adelaide Elementary School.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard/The Mirror

Families stepped into a winter wonderland where they were pampered Friday during the Adopt-A-Family event.

The gathering was put on by Grace Church and the Federal Way Police Department. It helped in-need children and families at Federal Way's Rainier View Elementary, Adelaide Elementary and Valhalla Elementary schools. Thirty families, consisting of 112 kids, were presented gifts and served dinner in Adelaide's gym.

"Bottom line is, our thought is, it's Christmas time, really, every child should have an opportunity to celebrate Christmas and the families are having a hard time," said Andy Hwang, Deputy Chief of Police.

Families piled into the dimly-lit gym and took a seat at long tables draped in blue cloth. Church volunteers and police brought them dinner before everyone headed off to do crafts, take family photos with inflatable snowmen and get gifts from Santa, who sat in an overstuffed red velvet chair in front of a Christmas tree twinkling with white lights.

Kids gingerly hid behind their parents as they waited for Santa's elves to retrieve wrapped presents. Santa gave each kid a gift wrapped in festive paper. Parents were given a bag containing two more gifts for each of their children and one stocking per child. The gifts were items the children had personally requested.

"I appreciate it very much," Nina Hamby said.

Her family is doubled up and a church volunteer suggested Hamby take part in Adopt-A-Family.

Each family was also given a full ham. Eighteen children who requested coats as a gift were provided one in addition to other toys.

"They need something fun too," pastor Jon McIntosh said.

Adopt-A-Family has been a police tradition for the past 10 years. Historically, the police department has organized, fundraised and hosted the event. Typically, it serves three or four families, Hwang said.

"This is huge, 30 families," he said.

Grace Church has also historically held an annual Christmas giving event for families in the Federal Way School District. This is the first time families from multiple schools have gathered together, McIntosh said.

The department was looking for ways to grow the program this year. Police realized they could leverage their funds if they teamed up with the community. A partnership with Grace Church and the Federal Way School District provided the perfect opportunity to put on a more elaborate Adopt-A-Family.

"The most exciting thing to me about this is it's really become a partnership between the church, the school district and the police department," McIntosh said.

Grace Church has a history working with local elementary schools. Church members are familiar with several of the school's principals and staff. They were able to identify families in need by working with school counselors. The district lent its gym space so that the nearly 300 participants in Adopt-A-Family could gather.

Fundraising was done primarily by the Federal Way Police Department. A goal of $1,500 was blown away when police were able to collect $2,800. Much of the money came from the police labor groups and police fundraisers, Hwang said. Citizens donated gifts and donations for the children as well. More funding came from two local churches and H-Mart. Grace Church donated another $1,000.

A portion of the funding went to help children and families at Twin Lakes Elementary. The school did not partake in Friday's festivities, but Adopt-A-Family helped serve families that were included on the school's Giving Tree list.

This year's event is the biggest the police department has ever done, Hwang said. Police plan to continue partnering to put on the event in future years.

"We're hoping to grow it, make it bigger next year," McIntosh said.

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