Years of the Most Marvelous Christmas

December 11 and 12 were cold, crisp winter days, yet Zumbro was filled with warmth that can only come from the heart. Zumbro member Jan Vetter was scurrying around Zumbro’s second and third floors coordinating, and answering questions of volunteers and anxious, yet extremely grateful families. Amongst these conversations, many hugs and tears were shared. Her brainchild, Adopt-a-Family, a program ran by Jan in partnership with Lutheran Social Services of Rochester and Olmsted County, was coming to fruition for the 27th year in a row.


Adopt-a-Family started in 1987 by Jan and a Social Service coworker of hers with the help of a Stewartville Church. That year, nine families were ‘adopted’ by the church. Toys, blankets, winter wear, and clothing were purchased and wrapped to be opened on Christmas morning. This program is unique as each member of the ‘adopted’ family provides a personal wish list, adults too. This wish list includes exact color, size, and want of the person receiving; it also must include clothing items. This truly offers the opportunity for a very special Christmas that otherwise, wouldn’t have been for families.

In 2014, there were 250-300 donor groups (families, churches, work teams, etc.) and 370 families that had their hearts touched this Christmas.

There isn’t one moment that keeps Jan going year after year, but a collection of moments.

Every year, families are asked to write a thank you letter to the donor. Three years ago, a recently widowed mother shared her story of losing her husband and donating his organs. She went on to explain how this has helped her see God amidst of her heartache.

A mother came to pick up the gifts for her family and was brought to tears at the shock that someone purchased her son a bicycle.

For some of the donors, this is what makes their Christmas. Each item is purchased with the anonymous individual in mind and wrapped with care.

With tears welling in her eyes, when asked why she does this, Jan replies, “People need to be reminded that God is generous.”


Jan thanks Zumbro for all of its support throughout the years. “Without Zumbro’s volunteer support and facility support, this [program] would be very difficult” remarks Jan.