Pizza Ranch, 139 Ashland St., Morton, is adopting families.

“We started the Adopt a Family program a little over a year ago,” Pizza Ranch General Manager Selena McVey said. “My parents, John and Julie McVey, who own the Pizza Ranch, and I just really wanted to do as much as we could for people in need.”

 Families chosen by the program, which provides a meal a week for a family for one month, are found through word of mouth for the most part as well as some chosen from the Pizza Ranch family’s volunteer work.

“There really is no application process for the families,” McVey said. “It is all word of mouth from people coming in and telling us of families in need and people we meet.

“We have done things for families who have had fires or families where dad lost his job and they are struggling. There have been times where we have done more than one family a month.”

 After a family is chosen, they have several options for how to receive their free meal.

“They can do a variety of different things,” McVey said. “We have an elderly gentleman now that we take lunch to every day. Some order takeout and some come in and do the buffet.”

 While there are plenty of people needing a helping hand, McVey said that finding them has not always been easy.

“Sometimes we have trouble finding people but lately we haven’t had that problem,” McVey said. “We have been connecting in the community more recently. We have been doing community events and fundraising and that’s how we end up finding a lot of our folks. We are always looking for people.”

 When the family is chosen, discretion is the name of the game.

“We don’t talk about it a lot, it’s just something that we do, so people don’t really know about it,” McVey said. “The families are usually quite shocked and always pleased.

“We make a little coupon for the family so it’s kind of discreet. You don’t want the family to feel awkward.”

 What started out as a way to help local families has begun to spread.

“We came up with this specific idea, the Adopt-a-Family and now there are several other Pizza Ranches that have done it,” McVey said. “It’s awesome to help others.

“Honestly, there are probably three or four times a week where I am overwhelmed with tears about what we are doing here. At first, this started as a way for us to support our family and for our future but it has turned into something that gives us the chance to make a difference.”

In the beginning of the program, things were smaller.

“We are just always looking for ways that we can do something,” McVey said. “If I remember correctly, a family that was struggling was brought to our attention and we decided to do something for them and it just snowballed from there.”

 Despite the humble beginnings, the community service of the Pizza Ranch family has grown.

“We want to do as much as we can to help everyone that we encounter,” McVey said. “I see us doing a lot of great things in the future.

Recently, we provided breakfast for the Dream Center in Peoria.

“We are now partnering with them and, once a month, mom, dad and I will bus tables and do a fundraiser for them. We have also been donating all our leftover pizza to them instead of throwing it away. We are looking for any way we can help.”

Contact Pizza Ranch at 263-1200 for more information about the program.