Adopt a family for the holidays

Antoinette Turner sits at a dining room set donated by Malibu locals Norm and Shirlee Klein.

A woman writes asking for toys to be given to her two children for the holidays. She hopes to be in a Santa Monica shelter soon. Going through letters like this one is part of the daily routine of the founder of the Children's Lifesaving Foundation (CLF), Maria D'Angelo.

This description of the CLF mission is from its Web site: "The CLF is committed to changing the lives of families living in shelters by giving them a once-in-a-lifetime chance - and following through with them, as their family and their lives improve dramatically."

D'Angelo and her family are doing exactly what that statement says.

"Since it started 10 years ago, the Adopt-a-Family program has sponsored 33 families," D'Angelo said. "The families stay together and parents learn to take care of their families."

The CLF is a family affair. D'Angelo's children are committed to the foundation. Daughter Francesca McCaffery functions as the chief operating officer and son Sean is the director of the Enrichment Camps and the Adopt-a-Family program.

McCaffery said many in Malibu share the successes of the CLF through the Adopt-a-Family, Project Angel and Camp Enrichment programs to help families at risk.

"Several hundred Malibu families have supported our programs," McCaffery said, "through purchasing and donating specific items or sponsoring a family financially, giving at holiday toy drives, school book drives and supply drives, camp programs and volunteering. Malibu residents are extremely community-driven and they've rallied to our cause. For all the ways they support us, we are blessed."

"Malibu residents like John and Meredith Whelpley, Melanie Wizan, Margaret Hauptman actively support us," McCaffery continued. "And so do families like the Wirhts, Poyers, the Salkas and Bill and Lisa Curtis, who sponsored a family with six children living in a one-room shelter.

"The sponsor families see the families they've sponsored at holiday dinners, camps and at the new homes as they move furniture. Our sponsors are, in several cases, very actively involved with their adopted families."

D'Angelo credits the students of Malibu's schools for organize toy drives and collecting school supplies to be given to CLF children throughout the year. "Several thousand Malibu kids have helped us and are helping us," D'Angelo said. "It's ongoing."

The CLF Web site describes the Adopt-a-Family process as follows: Families at-risk are met through the Camp Enrichment programs. Parents must have jobs, be drug- and alcohol-free and committed to improving the lives of their family. Upon evaluation and approval of a family, the Adopt-a-Family program begins immediately.

D'Angelo said the first thing parents must learn is how to care for and nurture their children. Next, parents go through the course of action of finding their new homes, which the CLF advises on and approves. At this point, the CLF provides the money to get a family into a home of their own.

"We give them the money to put first, last and security deposits down on their homes," McCaffery said.

"We help them physically move in, rent a truck, and provide them with furniture and home accessories and appliances," D'Angelo said. "Families we adopt become permanent members of our foundation. We provide a monthly, financial stipend for each family for one year so we see them regularly."

D'Angelo described the family that most urgently needs adoption this year.

"They once lived in a backyard trailer without electricity or a restroom," D'Angelo said. "The mother, along with her two children, had also lived in a car that was stolen one day."

At a shelter, the CLF was brought into contact with the family. D'Angelo said CLF's enrichment programs helped this mother learn to care for her family and thrive.

"Now the family needs to move forward, D'Angelo said. "Those two children are now beautiful teenagers that need a stable home. I urge someone to help get this family into their own home during this holiday season through the Adopt-a-Family program."

For those interested in the Adopt-a-Family program, go to the Web site: www.childrenslifesaving.org or call 310.457.6616.

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