Alexandria, VA – It’s important for kids to feel included in the holiday season, and for nearly 20 years residents of Alexandria’s Cameron Station community have made a tradition of making it merry for students at Samuel L. Tucker Elementary School. Since 2001, the Adopt-a-Family program has provided Tucker kids with clothing, food, toys, gift cards, and cash donations.
Mindy Lyle has coordinated efforts in Alexandria since 2008, and recently went shopping (dressed at Mrs. Claus) at 529 Kids Consign to pick up a few presents.
“I do this because I grew up with parents who taught us that you really needed to help those less fortunate,” Lyle told The Zebra. “My dad, Michael Lyle, grew up without a mother. She died when he was about 2, and he was one of seven children. His holidays were not happy, because his dad was working to support seven kids. I like to think that we are helping kids who ordinarily wouldn’t have a happy holiday, and by doing this it will result in a positive impact for them.”
So far, 20 Tucker families have been adopted for the holidays. They provided a shopping list to the school social worker, who, along with the principal, chooses the families. It’s a relatively light year when compared to previous holiday seasons, as the group previously supported up to 60 families at one time. Most adopted families receive between $500 and $1,000 in gifts.
“When everyone comes back to school and all the kids are talking about what Santa brought them, as a child don’t you wonder about why Santa didn’t care more to bring you a present,” Lyle said. “I love it. I’ve been able through the years to meet some of the parents when we deliver gifts, or when they pick them up at the school, and I see the joy that they bring, because they are struggling and are doing the best that they can. You know, sometimes everyone just needs a little boost.”
Virginia Kinneman, owner of Kinneman Insurance is one of many business owners supporting the Samuel L. Tucker Adopt a Family.
“We understand that it takes a village to raise a child and this program is a tiny way to let us contribute and be part of the village,” Kinneman said.
Approximately 60 percent of Tucker students receive free and reduced lunches. The presents and money raised go through the Greenhills Pickett Place Community Foundation, and the presents are held in an office at the school and are discreetly picked up by parents.
“In Alexandria we’re a little insulated and we don’t realize how great the need is, but even in our community there is such incredible need, and it’s not just at Samuel Tucker, and we need to be aware of it throughout the year – not just Christmas,” Lyle said.