Adopt-A-Family was born to address a need. In 1983, Lucy Runyon, Jayne Ellison and Kay Mansolill were three Palm Beach County women who saw too many “new, ‘poor’ folks who were temporarily down on their luck and too modest to ask for help,” according to Lucy Runyon.
The first family they helped was mentioned on a local radio station. A family of four had moved from Texas in search of a brighter future for the father in the computer field. They had packed up the family and their modest savings, and just before reaching Florida, one of the children became quite ill, requiring hospitalization. With all the savings going to hospital bills, the family was destitute. When they arrived in West Palm Beach with no place to live, they moved under the Royal Palm Bridge. Their story was mentioned on a local radio station, and the ladies promptly sought the family out, and moved them into a motel. Runyon, an employee at the First National Bank in Palm Beach, conferred with their Board of Directors, and called her lawyer. Twelve hours later, the first Board of Directors for Adopt-A-Family of the Palm Beaches was born. The bank adopted the family, the ladies helped them find an apartment and two weeks later, got the father a job. Their initial success was contagious, and fueled their energy to help more families.
Mansolill, Ellison and Runyon developed a “catalog” of families to adopt, and shopped local CEOs. With persistence and determination, 50 families were adopted in the first year. Their sales pitch was that keeping donated dollars at home and investment in your community is a solid, smart business decision. To this day, some of those original companies are still involved with Adopt-A-Family
Wendy Tippett, MNM,GPC Chief Executive Officer
The ladies continued to seek funding while spending time with the families, doing their part to give them tools they could use to make their lives better. They taught families how to shop for and prepare inexpensive, nutritious food for their families, worked on their self-esteem by taking them to beauty and barber shops and out to lunch – Monsolill, Ellison and Runyon knew the impact that this would have on people’s lives, and they wanted to reinforce that their situation was only temporary. During the holidays, the ladies delivered gifts aboard a West Palm Beach Fire truck.
The thrift shop began when Ellison began approaching Palm Beach estates to donate for a worthy cause. Terry Garrity, a close friend of Ellison, fondly remembers, “it was just easier for them (donors) to say ‘yes.’”
More than 29 years later, we have stayed true to the dream of our founders, and over the years have helped more than 31,000 families attain self-sufficiency.