For Claudia and Alfonso Miranda, struggling to make ends meet is an everyday reality. The couple share a tiny, cramped single-room apartment with their three children, residing just outside of Downtown L.A., in a community where luxuries nearly always take a backseat to life’s basic necessities.

As Catholics the Mirandas believe strongly in “la Virgencita,” and often turn to her in moments of difficulties as well as joy. Aided by their Catholic faith, the couple always tries to remain positive “that we will survive” and pray for “open doors” leading to future blessings, Claudia Miranda recently told the Tidings.

One of those “open doors” has been the opportunity to participate in Adopt-a-Family, an archdiocesan program that helps make Christmas wishes come true for hundreds of local needy families every year.

This year will be the second time the Miranda children are “adopted” by the program; the first year the plethora of presents was an unexpected but extremely welcome surprise, recalled Claudia.

“The truth is we didn’t expect to receive so much, but it meant so much to see our kids so emotional when they brought them their gifts,” she said, adding that they feel doubly blessed that they were selected for the program a second time.

“By November we knew we wouldn’t be able to afford [Christmas] gifts again,” explained Claudia, noting that paying the rent and keeping a roof over their heads always has to take precedence over the holiday. The family lives week to week, surviving solely on her husband’s limited income from selling luggage.

“We are so grateful that [Adopt-a-Family] is able to help us,” she said.

This year Adopt-a-Family is celebrating a major milestone: Msgr. Terrance Fleming launched the program 25 years ago with 10 adopted families. Thanks to the exponential growth of volunteers, donors and sponsors, on Dec. 19 Christmas will arrive early for the Mirandas and 500 other needy families with kids, who reside in some of the bleakest neighborhoods in and around Downtown L.A.

Lydia Gamboa, associate director for Adopt-a-Family, estimates that the program has served a combined total of 9,500 families over the past 25 years.

“After 25 years we are so blessed to continue to bring the magic of Christmas to the families and especially all the children of downtown and Skid Row in Los Angeles,” she said. “Let’s see where the next 25 years takes us!”

Every year, Adopt-a-Family volunteers and program leaders start the lengthy process of meeting low-income families during the late summer months, by going door-to-door in overcrowded apartment buildings. They conduct in-home interviews with qualifying families to assess their household needs and the gift wishes of each child, which total over 1,800 boys and girls of all ages each year.

Participating families receive household essentials, such as food, toiletries, clothing, blankets and school supplies, as well as specifically-requested presents for the children. Individuals, families, schools and businesses provide essential financial support and gift donations for the program, and staff members and volunteers offer hands-on support: wrapping the presents and distributing the gift boxes on delivery day, typically on the Saturday morning before Christmas Day.

In the modest Miranda home, all three children have been eagerly counting the days and hours until “Santa Claus arrives” (the youngest aided by her older siblings) — they are “very happy, excited and waiting,” described their mother.

The family’s biggest gift wish this Christmas season? The oldest child, 9-year-old Marta, is hoping she will finally have a bicycle to call her own.

“I think it’s great everything [Adopt-a-Family] does to help so many people,” said Claudia.

How to help

To learn more about volunteering, donating or sponsoring a family, go to: