The Zoo is proud to have been part of the Adopt a Family program through Omaha Public School for 30 years.
Currently, Zoo staff work with nearby schools, Bancroft and Castelar Elementary, whose counselors identify families with great need. On average, the Zoo adopts 8 families annually. The schools provide Zoo staff with the names, ages and genders of the household members, and then employees and volunteers donate and shop for the families.
Funds for this yearly project come from a variety of sources including the net profits of employee-area candy machines and employee collection bowls in reception areas. Typically, the overwhelming majority of funds comes from collections at the holiday parties of the Zoo’s docents and volunteer divers. This year is a little different because of COVID restrictions and plans were scaled back. The holiday parties were not able to be held so funds were limited to the remainder of the 2019 fund, candy proceeds and employee donations. Gifts were also not able to be delivered directly to the families, but instead to the schools before winter break.
“We have a great group of staff and Zoo volunteers who shop and wrap the gifts for each family,” said Sue Lyons, director of Membership and Guest Services. “We purchase toys for the children, a small gift for the adults, groceries for a holiday meal and a sweet treat. We also include day passes for the entire household to take a trip to the Zoo.”
“I am proud to have been involved in this program since its inception,” said Ms. Lyons. “During a non-COVID year, it is so heart-warming to knock on the door and see the faces of the children as we deliver gifts and groceries. It’s touching to realize that some of these families may not have Christmas gifts except for the generosity of our employees and volunteers.”