In 1983, Palm Beach County residents Lucy Runyon, Jayne Ellison, and Kay Mansolill heard a gut-wrenching story on a local radio station: A family of four was moving from Texas to Florida, but during their journey, one of the children fell terribly ill. The child required hospitalization and the family’s savings were quickly drained as the parents, desperate to care for their child, received medical bill after medical bill.
They arrived in West Palm Beach destitute, and, unable to afford a home or hotel, were forced to take shelter under The Royal Palm bridge.
Runyon, Ellison, and Mansolill knew something had to be done to protect this family. The three women quickly assisted the family, finding them an affordable home, helping secure employment, and ultimately, helped them reclaim their dignity.
The Adopt-A-Family dream was born. The women continued to assist “new, ‘families in need,’ who were temporarily down on their luck and too modest to ask for help,” according to Runyon, who quickly presented this mission to the Board of Directors at First National Bank in Palm Beach, where she worked.
Twelve hours later, the first Board of Directors for Adopt-A-Family of the Palm Beaches was born. One year later, Adopt-A-Family incorporated as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charitable organization. The founding women developed a list of local families in need and rallied local businesses and institutions to support Adopt-A-Family’s growing work. Some of the companies that assisted in 1983 continue to support AAF’s efforts today.
Nearly 40 years later, Adopt-A-Family has assisted more than 56,000 families. Our work continues to echo the ethos of Runyon, Ellison, and Mansolill’s early efforts. Families are not only offered shelter, but taught financial literacy, provided with mental health therapy, connected to employment and educational opportunities, and given a safe, dignifying environment to regain stability and self-sufficiency.