“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!” Last year, eight happy carolers walked up the sidewalk to a small, blue house just west of the Trinity River. Their arms were filled with brightly wrapped presents and boxes of food.

The carolers were greeted by a mother and her seven children, ages 2 to 16. The shy family welcomed the carolers into their home.

First, a man in a Santa hat placed his presents on the floor next to a 3-foot Christmas tree. Soon, the room was overflowing with gifts – big boxes, small boxes, baskets – all for this special family.

It was still 10 days until Christmas, but the children couldn’t wait to see what Santa’s helpers had brought. They tore into the biggest package under the tree, pulled off the ribbons and wrapping paper and discovered seven new winter coats – one for each child. Even though it was 75 degrees outside, they couldn’t wait to try on their new jackets.

This family was one of more than 800 families adopted in 1991 through the Volunteer Center’s Adopt-A-Family program. The program is a unique way for groups and individuals to help needy families during the holiday season.

The program is unique because the adopter actually meets the family members and celebrates the holidays with them. Each adopted is given the family members’ names, their clothing sizes and some background information.

The adopter is asked to purchase a new toy and one new article of clothing for each child and to bring some food for the family’s holiday meal. Then, the adopter makes arrangements to bring these gifts directly to the family, usually two weeks before Christmas.

This year, more than 900 families are waiting to be adopted. Families can be adopted by individuals, civic organizations, churches or entire companies. Last year, for example, J.C. Penney adopted more than 80 families.

Corporate adoptions will be held Nov. 30, and individual adoptions are scheduled Dec. 1-11.

In addition to Adopt-A-Family, there are hundreds of other ways you can volunteer during the holidays. Each year, the Volunteer Center produces a booklet, “Holiday Harvest,” which lists holiday volunteer opportunities at more than 150 nonprofit agencies.

The booklet includes brief descriptions of the agencies so potential volunteers can know the missions and clients served by the agencies. Agencies range from the large – American Lung Association and Senior Citizens of Greater Dallas – to the small – Sequoia and YMCA Casa Shelter.

The booklet lists a variety of volunteer jobs and the agencies where the opportunities are available. For example, volunteers can dress up as Santa Claus or Mrs. Claus at the Promise House, a residential care facility for runaways and youth in crisis.

Other volunteers are needed to plan holiday parties for the clients of White Rock Senior Center and the Disabled Sports Association of North Texas.

Volunteers also are needed to prepare and serve food, provide transportation, make and teach holiday crafts, and visit senior citizens and disabled individuals.

“Holiday Harvest” is an excellent resource for groups and individuals looking for a special holiday volunteer project. The booklet is available at no charge at the Volunteer Center of Dallas, located just east of Downtown at 1215 Skiles. Call 826-6767 for more information about Adopt-A-Family.