After falling on hard times and living out of a tent at the Mendenhall Campgrounds a few years ago, Apryle and Shannon McVey, and their chidren, Arthur, 13, Carrie, 14, Katie, 17, have found stable, affordable housing through Saint Vincent de Paul. SVDP is hoping more Juneau residents will participate in its annual "Adopt A Family" holiday program which makes sure children staying at the shelter have presents under the Christmas tree.

After falling on hard times and living out of a tent at the Mendenhall Campgrounds a few years ago, Apryle and Shannon McVey, and their chidren, Arthur, 13, Carrie, 14, Katie, 17, have found stable, affordable housing through Saint Vincent de Paul. SVDP is hoping more Juneau residents will participate in its annual "Adopt A Family" holiday program which makes sure children staying at the shelter have presents under the Christmas tree.

Without more donations, Adopt-a-Family looks ‘bleak’

With Christmas just around the corner, St. Vincent de Paul is imploring the Juneau community to participate in its annual “Adopt-a-Family” program, which gives presents to children whose families can’t otherwise afford them.

Only 16 out of 45 families that are signed up for the program have been adopted, and the nonprofit organization has only received one donated gift so far: a bath set for a teen girl.

“We really need people to come in and start adopting,” Tamee Martini, SVDP’s housing manager said. “It looks kind of bleak at this point, actually. I’m a little worried.”

She explained further, “It’s just getting later and later in the month, and more and more people are coming, and they still have until Friday to sign up.”

About 15 families, with some 25 children among them, live at SVDP’s transitional housing facility on Teal Street right now, according to Tashina Jordan, the shelter’s on-site manager. All the children there, ranging up to 18 years old, are automatically signed up for the Adopt-a-Family program. Others living in SVPD’s permanent housing are signed up for the program as well.

“We have four infants under the age of 4 months,” Martini said during a joint interview with Jordan at the shelter, located on the second floor above SVDP thrift store, on Tuesday.

“They’re so cute,” Jordan gushed.

“So we have two newborns that are very, very newborn,” Martini said. “One born at Thanksgiving, and one shortly after that.”

Many of those living at SVDP’s shelter can barely afford the $525 a month rent, so Christmas gifts for their children are largely out of the picture. The shelter is for people who are getting back on their feet, as Jordan put it. It has a two year cap, and afterward, tenants must either find other housing elsewhere or are referred to one of SVDP’s permanent housing properties around town.

Shannon McVey said SVDP’s affordable housing has been a “lifesaver” for him and his family. The family fell on hard times a few years ago when McVey lost his job and was unable to find work again. After all their resources were drained, he, his wife of 16 years Apryle, and their three children found themselves living out of a tent at the Mendenhall Campground near the glacier.

Apryle McVey said members of her church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, came by the campground every day for support and helped them find housing. They were in a SVDP apartment within three weeks.

The family stayed at the transitional housing shelter nearly two years, and just last month moved into one of the seven permanent housing units on the ground floor of the Teal Street property.

“They’re a life-saver that they’re here,” Shannon McVey said of SVDP, adding he now works in security. “Staying upstairs (in the shelter) is not the easiest thing but it’s a lot better than living out in the tent.”

Jordan said SVDP came through for her and her family when they were suddenly evicted out of their home and had no place to go. She, her husband and their five children lived at the shelter, and about a year and a half ago, she was recommended to be hired as the on-site shelter manager, where she now lives and works.

“With five kids, it’s extremely hard to find a big enough space and affordable housing in Juneau,” she noted.

Martini has stayed at SVDP housing as well. She said when she and her husband moved here from California, they were shocked by the high cost of living. After a while, they moved out of the housing and bought their own home.

“I’ve kind of been involved in St. Vincent’s ever since then,” Martini said. “Juneau has been really good to me, and St. Vincent de Paul has been really good to me.”

SVDP has done the Adopt-a-Family program for 20 years running. Those who adopt families receive a form that shows how many children are in the family, how old they are and their clothing size. The form also lists out one “want” and one “need” item for each child.

The “wants” vary over the years, but the “needs” invariably remain the same, Martini said.

“We see coats and gloves and shoes,” she said, adding, “That really makes me sad that families can’t afford to get that kind of gear for their kids.”

The organization also collects donated toys, gifts and stocking stuffers for children of various age ranges for the program. Organizers ask that those donated gifts are left unwrapped.

“We have had some people just pour gifts on their families, which is why the donation of unwrapped toys is so important, because if we see a family — an Adopt-a-Family family — that didn’t get very much, we’ll augment it with the donated toys,” Martini said.

Those interested in adopting a family can stop by the SVDP offices at 8617 Teal Street, or call 789-5535 Extension 4 or 7 for more information. Donated gifts can be dropped off in person at the same location.

Those wishing to help the Adopt-a-Family program can also donate money through the SVDP website online at svdpjuneau.org. You can specifically request that the money goes to the Adopt-a-Family program.

All donations must be received by 4 p.m. Dec. 18.

Tamee Martini, left, Saint Vincent de Paul's housing manager, and Tashina Jordan, the on-site manager for the SVDP shelter, are working to improve the holiday for families living at the shelter.

Tamee Martini, left, Saint Vincent de Paul’s housing manager, and Tashina Jordan, the on-site manager for the SVDP shelter, are working to improve the holiday for families living at the shelter.

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