12/01/2010 09:03 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In Time Of Great Need, 'Adopt A Family' Programs Popular Nationwide

As the country struggles to climb out of a crippling recession, nearly one in five Americans reported they found themselves unable to afford food some time in the last year.

With the holidays just weeks away, nonprofits nationwide are working to help needy Americans with "Adopt-A-Family" programs.

The concept revolves around pairing families who can't afford holiday luxuries with more financially stable families who want to lend a hand. The programs are often run by local Salvation Army branches or various other community nonprofit organizations.

Adopting Families Across The Nation

In Maili, Hawaii, the Aguiar family is struggling to stay afloat. Holidays presents for their three children wouldn't be possible if it weren't for a seasonal family sponsorship program run by Helping Hands Hawaii.

Hawaii News Now reports,

"Well, it's rough because only I work and we have a lot of bills, like go by check by check, trying to survive, trying to make the best of it," Maili resident Tamara Aguiar said.

Tamara and her husband insist they don't want anything for themselves, but they look forward to seeing their children get to open gifts given by their adoptive family.

"The number one thing, kids are happy, to me that's what I think's the best about Christmas," Aguiar said.

Thousands of miles away, in Appleton, Wis., struggling families are getting a holiday boost from the Salvation Army's Adopt-A-Family program.

The Post-Courier is profiling some of the families involved in the program.

For Lucy, a single mother recovering from a car crash, paying to replace her vehicle will suck up the cash she had tucked away for Christmas gifts.

The donations from the family that adopts Lucy and her daughter will save the holidays from a near-disaster, The Post-Courier reports.

Similar programs are helping families in cities and towns across the country. While the idea isn't new, the need may be greater now than ever.

South Bend, Ind., news station WSJV reports more residents are requesting help -- but more families are also stepping up to get involved.

How To Help:

• Find a local organization that is running an Adopt-A-Family program:

Many branches of the Salvation Army connect families to help each other. Search by zip code for your nearest branch on the Salvation Army USA website -- and contact them to inquire if they're running an Adopt-A-Family program.

• When you adopt a family, you are committing to buying them holiday gifts and food items. Don't commit if you are uncertain you can handle the responsibility. The program may vary depending on your location and the nonprofit you are working with.

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