This article was originally published in Grunion Gazette on Nov. 28, 2018.

When Heather Stangle-Smith and Nate Smith moved to Long Beach three years ago, they were looking to build community. They had heard great things about the city from friends who had grown up here, and decided it would be the perfect place to make a home in between their two jobs. Heather, who is an attorney at UnitedHealth Group, worked at the time in Irvine, while Nate, a paleontologist, works at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County as Associate Curator in the Dinosaur Institute.

Looking to connect with organizations and give back to their new community, Heather scrolled through Facebook and happened upon The Guidance Center. She clicked the “Like” button, and began to follow along with our organization’s updates.

Not long after she began following us, she saw a Facebook post about our Adopt-a-Family program and immediately signed up to provide hope and joy to one of our families that holiday season. With both their extended families living back East, it felt like the perfect way to start a new holiday tradition together.

They each had previously participated in other holiday donation programs but felt Adopt-a-Family was truly special after participating that first year.

“Receiving the story about the family is what we loved the most,” Heather explains. “We got to know the names of each child and their parent, and some of the challenges they were working to overcome together. It made shopping for items on their wish list that much more meaningful because we felt like we knew them and cared about what they were going through. We got a sense that we helped an entire family.”

Heather and Nate have adopted a family every year since.

Each year has been meaningful to the couple in special ways. They always cherish the handcrafted thank you notes from their adopted families. Last year, in addition to notes, they also received a bamboo plant from the family. It was such a sweet, unexpected token of appreciation, and they cherished it, too.

Heather and Nate are excited to start shopping for their adopted family this season – and this time together.

Last year, Nate was on an expedition in Antarctica, collecting specimens for an exhibit on Antarctic Dinosaurs coming to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in April. This year will be once again meaningful in a special way.

“Adopt-a-Family not only allows us to help a family in our community, but also an entire organization that we’re really proud to support,” said Heather.

Join Heather and Nate and provide a family with joy and hope this holiday season.

Sign up here: Deadline to participate is Monday, Dec. 3, 2018.