Putting Together A Holiday Help Program–LINKY PARTY

It’s just about time for the holidays!   As counselors, our work extends beyond the classroom walls.  I know many of us put together a holiday help program for families in need of a little extra assistance.  I have mentioned that I put together a Giving Tree Program, and a lot of readers have asked me to post more about it.  I thought we could do a Blog Linky Party  so that other counselors could also share what they do and how they do it.
How do you participate?

  1. Create a blog post titled: “Putting Together A Holiday Help Program” and answer the questions below
  2. Paste the Linky Party logo from above at the beginning of your blog post
  3. Submit your blog post link below (please be sure to link your actual blog post, not your blog homepage)

Our program is called The Giving Tree.  We identify families who are in need of support during the holiday season.  We collect presents from teachers and community members and deliver them to our families who have been identified.  We try to buy each child a combination of clothing, and a fun item (toy/game/movie/book), and a gift card for the family to a grocery store.

We inform parents by calling potential families and asking if they would like some help, and by inviting parents to participate by putting an article in our newsletters.  There are 340 students in our building.  Last year we had over 30 students in our building that we offered support.  All families are anonymous. 

I get teachers involved by sending out an email asking them to help identify children that might not be on my radar.  In addition, I send out a poster informing everyone of the dates of the program and how they can be involved.  Community members hear about the program via newsletter, email, and during the winter music concerts where a collection can is passed around.  Each year I am amazed by the unconditional support this program receives.  I tear up every year with joy.  The feelings I have I can’t put into words, but awestruck is pretty close! 
We also have a Giving Tree that we put up (last year it was a clothes line, however–this year it will be a ficus tree).  On the tree are tags that we allow community members and faculty to take, buy, wrap and return.

I keep organized by providing every student a number.  I also cross reference each student with our counselors at the other buildings to make sure if we have one sibling, we have all the siblings covered.  Each student has a “shopping sheet” that contains this info as well as what we are asking for that is needed and wanted.  From there, tags are made with the student’s number and gender, and a description of what we would like.  For example:  girl, size: youth medium, hoodie.  Likes the color blue.  I ask the gift buyers to wrap and return the tag attached to the present.  This helps to identify what has come in and what items are missing.  ( I do not keep track of who takes each tag)

As we get ready to distribute gifts, I section off a space in the conference room for that student.  I use post it notes that I put each student’s number on so that I can sort gifts.  Below you can see the orange post it notes and the piles of gifts.  After we are done sorting, we put the piles in bags and put the student’s number on the bag.  We have parents come at certain times of the day (during class times when students should not be in the hall) to pick up their bags.  I also deliver to those families without cars. 

Last, but not least, I make sure to follow it up every year with a letter to all those who helped out.  Here is what I had to say last year:
Hello Lansing Family,
Thank you to everyone who has helped out this holiday season. It has been very gratifying to come into work each day and see the mountain of presents grow higher and higher. It definitely has been been the bright spot amidst all the news coverage of the terror and sadness of Sandy Hook School incident. It reminds me that there is good in the world and we do live in a community that is concerned about everyone in the village. The holiday season is special. Not only is it a time to spend with family and friends, but a time to stop and reflect on all of life’s blessings.

At the Middle School, we have been working on the theme, “What YOU Do Matters.” We have been working on Random Acts of Kindness, and working on ways to make the world a better place. I am reminded of the story of the starfish that were washed upon the shore after a huge storm and the little boy who walked along the shore throwing them back into the sea one at at time. After some time of doing this a man went up to the little boy and said, “little boy you are wasting your time, surely you can’t pick up all those starfish, you can’t make a difference.” But, the boy picked up another starfish, threw it back into the sea, and said to the man, “I made a difference to that one.”
So, I thought that I would share with you, all the starfish in our sea. I’d like you to see for yourself the spirit of our community in coming together, in showing concern for others, the love within our hearts, and how what we do, does matter.

Happy holidays everyone. Thank you, for everything.

So, that is our Giving Tree Program.  I hope it inspires you to do something to help out in your school.

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