Sunday, November 23, 2014
Helping Families at Christmas Time
I love Christmas! The tree, the lights, the gifts, the food, "the reason for the season,"and of course, Christmas sweaters!!! But as we all know there are many of our families for whom this is just another day, a day without decorations or special foods or gifts. Each year beginning in November I start collecting names of families who are in need of "holiday help." Because I have been at the same school for many years, I am aware of who many of these families are and they know that our school always does something to assist and will call and ask if we can help them. I am fortunate to live in a small town with very generous community organizations who offer their help during the Christmas season.
To collect names I begin by emailing all my teachers for the names of children they think could use the "holiday help." Although I see all my students twice a month for classroom counseling, they see the children everyday. They know who is wearing the same clothes day in and day out, who never has a coat or doesn't have a snack or can't afford the field trip. Sometimes there are more names than sponsors and I have to improvise. My teachers are wonderful about providing the names and even offering to buy gifts if at anytime I don't have enough community sponsors to cover all the needs.
Based on the number of names I receive, and of course it varies from year to year, I start matching them up with each organization by number of children or number of families. I send home the Holiday Gift Info sheet ( I have it in both English and Spanish) along with a letter of explanation
(also in both English and Spanish) which tells who sponsoring organization is and give a date for return of the gift info sheet and the pick-up date for the presents .
For the times that have more names than sponsors, or families who call me late, and I mean like after all the gifts are delivered and it is 2-3 days before we leave for Christmas break, I sent out the
Wait List letter (English and Spanish) and let families know I will be looking for sponsors, but do not promise anything. That's when my faculty rises to the occasion, offering to adopt a child or an entire family. We are also doing a Holiday Food and Toy Drive sponsored by my fifth grade Leadership Club. I send out the Holiday Food and Toy Drive fliers (English and Spanish) prior to Thanksgiving as many of our families will pick-up some Black Friday specials to donate to our drive. Then if needed, we use the toys donated to make sure each family who expressed a need gets some sort of gifts. Those toys not used to supplement the needs of our own families are taken to the fire station to the local Toys for Tots collection.
I have done an Angel Tree in the past, but for our school this did not work and after only 2 years, we dropped it. I know for other schools this has worked quite well but for us this was not the case.
I have also worked alongside the Salvation Army in regards to their Angel Tree. They have graciously provided names of families from my school who are on their tree, so I am sure to provide resources to every family and avoid those who are already being served.
This is probably one of the busiest and most hectic times of year, and it can be easy to become jaded and scrooge like when you receive complaints or criticism for whatever gift-giving endeavor you attempt. Just remember to do the best you can, make no promises, and take care of yourself.