GOSHEN TWP. (Jan.17, 2024) — Bertha Bumbarger had this to say about everyone who made United Way of Greater Cincinnati's Adopt-A-Family effort a success: "All of 'em are awesome. The people who do this don't get enough credit."
Bertha, 63, and her husband, Karl, 65, are raising nine grandchildren in their Goshen Township home. They were among 125 local families that received gifts this past holiday season through Adopt-A-Family.
Like the Bumbargers, most of the gift recipients were members of kinship care families, in which children are cared for by relatives or friends with close ties to a parent facing difficult circumstances. Such families often need additional support, especially during the holidays.
This past year was especially challenging for the Bumbargers, and as the holidays approached, the prospects for gifts were bleak.
Knowing that, Sheli D'Orazio connected them to Adopt-A-Family. She is Family Engagement Specialist for Goshen Local Schools, has worked with the Bumbargers for nine years and "is everything to this family," Bertha said.
United Way's faith-based partners also helped identify recipient families. United Way then provided personalized wish lists to generous families, individuals and groups who shopped for the items. Faith-based groups picked up the gifts and distributed them to families.
Additional families were identified and selected through a partnership with the local AFL-CIO.
"If anybody deserved Adopt-A-Family, it's Bertha," D'Orazio said. "You never hear her complain about the financial struggles. You never hear her complain about anything. This is the time in her life when she should be doing things for herself, and here she is starting all over again."
That's because Bertha and Karl knew what awaited their nine grandchildren if the couple did not become their legal guardians. "They would have gone into foster care," Bertha said. "And I wasn't going to let my grandkids go into foster care."
Instead, nine years ago she and her husband brought the four oldest grandchildren into their home. And then about four and a half years ago, the couple also became guardians of the five youngest. The grandchildren now range in age from 5 to 20.
When they opened gifts on Christmas morning, they found needed items such as socks, shoes and pants, as well as fun things, including Legos, games, dolls and other toys.
"It was great," Bertha said. "Wonderful. I really appreciate it."
And she appreciates the awesome people who made it happen.