Holiday House opens doors for 16th year

An annual tradition that keeps the holidays affordable for families struggling with low income continues.

Hosted by the Family Resource Center and part of the nonprofit Readiness to Learn, Holiday House is an opportunity for income-eligible families of the South Whidbey School District to confidentially shop for holiday gifts. These gifts, from new toys to games to electronics, are purchased through community donations and Toys for Tots.

“It’s pretty powerful to partner with them,” Cailyn Murray, Family Resource Center coordinator, said about the national toy distribution program.

She said the local branch of Toys for Tots asked for donations on the ferries this past weekend. South Whidbey High School will also be partnering with the organization to do a toy drive.

The need in the community for Holiday House has been growing. Murray estimates there are 110 homeless students in the district. Last year’s data showed that 30 percent of South Whidbey Elementary School students were eligible for free and reduced lunch.

Jodelle DeLay has been volunteering for Holiday House for the past three years. To her, Christmas had never seemed like such a big deal until she watched the relief on the faces of parents picking out gifts for their children.

“My favorite part is actually working with the families, just getting to watch them be pleased at what’s there, and relieved and grateful,” DeLay said. “It’s a wonderful thing to watch someone relax because a burden’s been lifted.”

With the help of sponsors and community contributions, she said anyone would be proud to receive the gifts Holiday House offers, and they go above and beyond “dollar store gifts.”

“I think they’ve really put together a good program there,” DeLay said. “I’m proud to be part of it.”

Volunteers and donations are still being accepted for Holiday House. Greeters and gift wrappers are needed.

“We’re also looking for people who want to bring in baked goods,” Murray said. “Another way people can help is to donate money or unwrapped toys, but also gift wrap and tape.”

Holiday House opens in the South Whidbey Community Center next week and runs through Dec. 19.

Murray said South Whidbey families can schedule a shopping appointment by calling 360-221-6808, extension 4321 or by emailing rtlfprograms@readinesstolearn.org.

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