Help just in time for the holidays

Families who cannot afford gifts this holiday season have an island-wide resource.

The holidays may look different this year, but an island-wide organization is hoping to keep the tradition of gift-giving as normal as possible.

Nonprofit Readiness to Learn is continuing Holiday House in Langley and Oak Harbor this year, although there will be significant changes to how the program, which benefits families with financial hardships, will operate.

Referred to this year as Holiday Help, Langley’s branch of the program will consist of delivered presents. Parents will fill out an online application in advance with recommendations of items their kids would like.

Parents are encouraged to be as detailed as possible about what their children do or don’t like. In the past, the program has allowed them to hand-select gifts during a shopping appointment, which won’t be possible this year with the coronavirus being a concern.

As usual, there will be two regular gifts available as well as a special “snowflake” item.

Family Resource Coordinator Cailyn Murray explained that the bigger gift has often been a popular or more costly item, such as a bicycle. Stocking stuffers will also be available.

Instead of a festive gift-wrapping event, the presents will be discreetly delivered to households this year, with gift wrapping included. Murray said volunteers are still needed to sign up for delivering the presents.

The bulk of the deliveries will continue until Dec. 10.

To be eligible, there are certain requirements that must be met. Participants of the program must verify that they are at or below 175 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, or are experiencing an unexpected financial hardship, such as loss of income, illness or unexpected costs.

Murray said because of the year’s circumstances, she expects an increased demand.

“It’s a very challenging year for lots of families,” Murray said. “Our community still gives generously, which is a blessing.”

To sign up for Langley’s Holiday Help or to volunteer, visit readinesstolearn.org/holiday-house. Questions can be directed to rtlfprograms@readinesstolearn.org or by calling 360-221-6808, extension 4321.

Monetary donations can be made to the Readiness to Learn website, or checks can be made out to PO Box 280, Langley, WA 98260. Donors can choose to specify which community they would like to receive their donation, either South Whidbey or North and Central Whidbey.

Donors can also contribute items that will become presents. Toys for Tots donation boxes are currently scattered throughout the island and can be found outside grocery stores.

Oak Harbor’s Holiday House will be a drive-through event this year, a departure from the festively decorated “store” of years past, where parents had the opportunity to pick out items.

Now, much like Langley’s Holiday Help, participants of Oak Harbor’s Holiday House will be filling out an online application with their child’s likes and dislikes.

Families can contact the school district they live in, but they do not need to have children enrolled within the school district.

Counselors at Coupeville and Oak Harbor school districts will be making the decision about who is eligible for the program this year.

“People who normally don’t need Holiday House are going to be needing Holiday House this year,” said Christina Wertz, a regular volunteer for the program and one of its coordinators this year.

Volunteer Coordinator June Zacharias pointed out that with the cancellation of Whidbey’s Hope for Christmas, Holiday House is expecting to take on even more requests for presents for kids this year.

Zacharias said the goal this year is to serve over 800 children between Holiday House’s two locations on Whidbey.

“I think there will be more than that because there’s just more people out of work and more people in need,” she said.

Parents will stay in their cars upon arriving at Holiday House’s location in the building across the street from the Oak Harbor Elementary School. Volunteers will be bringing out bags to each car with gifts, stocking stuffers and gift wrapping supplies. For each kid, there will be four gifts and 10 stocking stuffers.

North Whidbey’s Holiday House will start handing out the goods Dec. 14, and will continue through Dec. 23.

Zacharias said gifts can be hard to find for teenagers, and recommends that people consider donating headphones, cell phone accessories, art supplies and sports equipment, including Frisbees and skateboards.

She added that the program is in need of a few more younger volunteers who do not fall within the high risk categories of people susceptible to catching COVID-19.

A single household, for example, would be the perfect fit to volunteer because these family members can be close to each other.

To volunteer, contact Zacharias at 360-682-2549.

More in News

South Whidbey resident Doug Hansen displays a large American flag Wednesday that once flew over the White House during the Jimmy Carter Administration. Photo by Kira Erickson/Whidbey News-Times
A day of firsts

In recognition of Inauguration Day, Whidbey Island man displays flag once flown over White House.

‘Blood-curdling screaming’ | Island Scanner

Island Scanner Dec. 25 - Jan. 1.

Democrats in the Washington State House are proposing to pay for transportation improvements partly by raising the gas tax by 18 cents. (Sound Publishing file photo)
House Democrats lay out massive $26B transportation package funded by gas tax hike

An 18-cent gas tax increase and a fee on carbon emissions would fund new roads and more.

Training in Coupeville schools puts suicide prevention in the Forefront

Parents and caregivers can sign up for upcoming classes for training to help prevent suicide.

District dedicated to natural resources holding election

A governmental body dedicated to protecting dirt and natural resources has an election Feb. 2.

Town mayor updates residents with annual address

Coupeville Mayor Molly Hughes took a look back on the year.

Members of the Oak Harbor High School DECA team, a business club supported by levy dollars, clear brush during a recent community clean up. A school levy is on the Feb. 9 ballot. Photo provided
$48.4 million Oak Harbor school levy on Febuary ballot

Ballots for the Oak Harbor Public Schools levy have started arriving for the Feb. 9 vote.

Market Manager Peg Tennant takes some measurements at the site of the Oak Harbor Farmers Market in preparation for the season opening in May 2017. The market has permanently closed after struggling to attract vendors and customers. File photo/Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor Farmers Market closes after more than 20 years

A new group is already planning for a new market this spring at Windjammer Park.

Man arrested at Walmart in Oak Harbor with stolen truck

An Anacortes business owner reported the truck as stolen. It was found at the Oak Harbor Walmart.

Most Read