This Holiday Season We Helped 85 Families in Need with Gifts Through Our “Adopt-A-Family” Program

El Centro de Amistad played Santa this holiday season by inviting 85 local families to a private charitable event that was held at ECDA’s two locations (566 South Brand Blvd. in San Fernando and 7038 Owensmouth Ave. in Canoga Park) on Friday, December 17. The 85 families were greeted with cookies, popcorn, and candy canes, all donated by Chase Bank. Families also were greeted individually by Santa, and the children had a chance to talk to Santa alone and take a family holiday photo with him. The families were also given gifts from the community, including toys, food, and essential household items.

Every year during the holidays, ECDA identifies families in need to participate in its “Adopt-A-Family” program. The families are low-income, some homeless, single-parent households, undocumented, or facing extreme obstacles. Factors such as high unemployment rates, homelessness, financial stressors, and mental health concerns lead to uneasy feelings of frustration, sadness, and anxiety for a parent or family member who is unable to provide a holiday meal or gifts for their loved ones.

“Our basic needs have to be met in order to focus on our mental health, which is why it’s important for us to receive the holiday support of food and gifts for our clients from our community,” said ECDA Board Chair Danitza Pantoja. “Especially during these unprecedented times where most of all our own mental health is being taxed, our families could really use the extra support.”

As a result of the pandemic, the need from the community was even greater than in normal times. This year, El Centro de Amistad nominated 85 families to participate in its “Adopt-A-Family” program instead of the usual 20 families it identifies. Based on the urgent needs, families adopted were nominated and chosen by ECDA’s case managers and clinical supervisors. Each clinician nominated 3-4 families to be assessed and receive support this holiday season.

To reinforce the need, ECDA formed a hospitality committee made up of employees to help spread the word in the community. The gifts given to the local families were donated by the community and collected by ECDA between the months of October through December. Additionally, the following sponsors provided financial support to ECDA’s “Adopt-A-Family” program this year: Chase Bank; SLTG, LLP C/O Enrique Sanchez; Peter & Teresa Koral; Arthur Vugelman; Designs By Nikki LLC C/O Nicole Hanriot-Tinkess; Nicole Hanriot-Tinkess; CalPrivate Bank C/O Noemi Gonzalez; Jeff Gersten; Mariah Casillas and many others.

El Centro de Amistad would also like to thank the many community sponsors who showed their support this year and Juliana Oceguera, Community Manager at Chase Bank – Panorama Branch, who helped adopt eight families in total for the Adopt-A-Family program. ECDA’s “Adopt-A-Family” program began three years ago when the nonprofit’s board members wanted to adopt families during the holiday season to address a need in the San Fernando Valley community. The program has grown quickly, and what started as 20 families being adopted during the holidays has now grown to 85 families today, but that isn’t enough. The demand has been so great that local nonprofits are reaching out to ECDA requesting if their clients can participate in the program.

To learn more about ECDA’s “Adopt-A-Family” program or the community services the organization provides, visit