Cape Gazette
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Rehoboth’s Merrill Lynch office adopts a family

Head elf: That’s what Christmas is all about
By Kara Nuzback | Dec 21, 2012
Photo by: Kara Nuzback Agents at Merrill Lynch in Rehoboth Beach pitched in to adopt a family for the third consecutive year. Pictured in the back row are (l-r) Bruce Chilcoat, Michael Shook, Kyle Ricker, Bob Sturgis, Ryan Williamson and Ken Drerup. Pictured in the front row are Ed McGehrin, Josh Currence, Janet Redman, Paula Sellers, Ron Miller and Rita Mahaffey. Jamie Gamuciello is in the foreground.

Rehoboth Beach — A Rehoboth Beach business is aiming to make the holidays a little brighter for a family in need.

Employees at Merrill Lynch in Rehoboth Beach adopted a family for the holidays, as they have for the last three years.  But Rita Mahaffey, a client associate at Merrill Lynch, said this year was more special than other years.

Mahaffey started the tradition of adopting a family when she began working at Merrill Lynch’s Rehoboth Beach office.  “That’s why they call me the head elf,” she said.

The first year, most people in the office went along with it; last year was slightly better.  But this year, everyone got into the spirit of giving, Mahaffey said.  “This year, in my opinion, has just been marvelous,” she said.  “Everybody was into it.”

Mahaffey said everyone bought gifts or donated money for Mahaffey to use for the family’s Christmas presents.  “Everybody had a hand in wrapping,” she said.  “Everybody just kind of pitched in, more so than any other year.”

Mahaffey said she usually participates in Adopt a Family through Epworth United Methodist Church, but when she contacted the church this year, all the families had already been adopted.

So Mahaffey said she turned to Nancy Bradshaw, the homeless liaison for Cape Henlopen School District, who knew 12 families still in need of adoption.  “I just said, ‘Give me one,’” Mahaffey said.

The crew at Merrill Lynch was given a local family of four – a single mother working two jobs to support a young daughter and two teenage sons.

In the past two years, Mahaffey said, the office has sponsored families with young children, so teenagers presented a new challenge.

Mahaffey said for the first time in three years, the office was able to buy everything on the family’s wishlist.  “And we had money left over,” she said.

Mahaffey said everyone went above and beyond to bring what they called Christmas magic to the family.  “What we’re doing stays in the community,” she said.  “I think that meant a lot to everybody.”

Mahaffey said she used the extra money to buy a few more gifts than the family had asked for.  “We just kept going until we were broke,” she said. “We exceeded our expectations,” she said.

The employees also bought health and beauty products, food and gift cards to Food Lion and Walmart.  Mahaffey said she wanted to give the mother an opportunity to make something special for her family for Christmas dinner.

Mahaffey said the donations totaled about $750.

“It was a good time for everyone to reflect back on what they can be thankful for,” she said.

Mahaffey said no one in the office knows the name of the family, but it was enough that somewhere in the community a family of four would be a little merrier on Dec. 25.

“When we do this it puts us back in touch with what it’s all about,” Mahaffey said.  “When you reach out to help somebody else, that’s what Christmas is all about.”

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