Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Star Tribune Story of a Adopt a family donor and past resident of Perspectives


Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune
Jennifer Montilino and her children raised money to buy gifts for another family.

She's happy to return the favor

What goes around, comes around for one Adopt-A-Family volunteer.

Sometimes, it's better to receive, then give.
When Jennifer Montilino of Minneapolis rallied her co-workers to contribute to an "adopt a family" Christmas fund, it was easy to bring extra passion to her goal.
Five years ago, she and her four children were one of the families in need who got bagfuls of holiday help from the same program.
Montilino was struggling through her first year of being sober, living in transitional housing provided by Perspectives Inc., a St. Louis Park nonprofit agency. She had no money to buy gifts for her kids, Jahlie, Celine, Ebi and baby Alec.
But Perspectives' Adopt-A-Family drive, one of dozens organized each year throughout the metro area, gave her enough donated toys and holiday decorations so that the kids didn't feel they were missing out.
"The best part of it is that it saves the mom," she said. "I could not have produced any kind of Christmas at all by myself that year, and I still got to be the hero, handing out presents."
Now that she has a job as an administrative assistant with an IT group at Cargill, those days are gone, but not forgotten.
"I also got assistance from the county, with day care and other things, and these programs really do what they're meant to," she said. "I needed help, got it, got launched on my own and now I don't need it anymore. Now it's my time to give."
After raising $500 at the office, enough for one family of six and another of two, she and a colleague went on a shopping spree.
"We had a blast," she said. "We got sheet sets, hats, perfume, hair accessories, fuzzy blankets, ornaments, lotions, jewelry. And Alec helped me pick out tree ornaments."
Jahlie, now 16, says she remembers the hard times.
"Those charities really helped us out," she said. "My mom has been giving back for a while now. She gives our old clothes to ARC and other little things, whatever she can, and it's a lesson we've all learned from her."
Jahlie has taken the lesson to heart as a junior at South High School in Minneapolis, where she's active with a human-rights group that works on causes such as Toys for Tots, saving the arts in public schools and aid for Haiti.
Way to pass it on, Mom.
Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046

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