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Latino nonprofit looks for sponsors to 'adopt' families for the holiday season

Zuli Garcia stands in front of the Christmas tree at Knock and Drop Iowa's food pantry location. The organization will hand out presents on Dec. 18.
Kassidy Arena
Zuli Garcia stands in front of the Christmas tree at Knock and Drop Iowa's food pantry location. The organization will hand out presents on Dec. 18.

Even before earning her organization's nonprofit status, Zuli Garcia hosted gift exchanges for Latino families in need. 2021 will be the second year of Knock and Drop Iowa's "Knock and Adopt a Family" program.

Sponsors can sign up to figuratively “adopt” a family in need for the holiday season by taking care of children’s gift lists and other household necessities.

Knock and Drop Iowa is a culturally-specific food pantry, and Garcia wanted to do something more to bring joy to children during the holiday season.

Garcia said this year, there was a stark drop in people signing up to adopt families. And Garcia spoke to some of last year’s sponsors to find out what caused the change.

“I heard from a lot of them this year that said, ‘Yeah, last year I used some of my stimulus money to adopt a family. This year, I can't afford to adopt a family,'" she explained after she opened the door to the building for a food delivery.

With support from individuals’ government stimulus checks last year, Knock and Adopt a Family had the capacity to serve 65 families. Now they can only serve about 20. And the list of families in need who they want to serve is much longer than that. Garcia said even just having 15 more sponsors sign up will make a difference.

"[Sixty-five] was way more than what we had expected. But the huge need was out there. And it's still out there because COVID isn't gone yet. So, a lot of families, a lot of single mothers, single fathers or families completely are struggling," Garcia said.

When finding families for the adopt-a-family program, Knock and Drop Iowa does not inquire about immigration status. And almost all of the outreach is in Spanish. This is what really makes an impact, according to Garcia.

She explained when immigrants and Spanish-speakers do not have to describe their experiences in English, it really helps with their comfort level when an organization asks them what they're in need of.

Garcia herself was born in El Salvador and is more than familiar with being in need of Christmas presents. Her mother struggled with drug addiction and she was raised mostly by her father in California. Garcia described how she and her sisters used to wait in the Toys for Tots line for one present each.

"You have no idea how happy we were, my sisters and I, to get that toy just from Toys for Tots. So to me, it's very heartbreaking if I can't adopt these kids because I know that they're all going to have a really sad Christmas if they can't even have one toy," she said.

Garcia reminded people it's not the dollar amount that counts. In her experience, children are happy even if a present cost $5 or less. She acknowledged people may be having a tough time financially, so maybe future sponsors can save for next year.

Knock and Drop Iowa has a back up plan in place for about 200 children who haven't been officially adopted through its program.

On Dec. 15, the nonprofit will host a posada, which is a sort of Christmas pageant celebration traditional to Latin American countries. At its headquarters in Des Moines, they will have food, entertainment and 200 donated teddy bears for children in need to take home for the holidays. Garcia is working on getting more toys for the event.

If individuals are interested in becoming sponsors, contact Zuli Garcia or Knock and Drop Iowa.

Kassidy was a reporter based in Des Moines