Holiday House preparing for season of giving

Volunteers are hard at work this week decorating and organizing for the annual Holiday House giving program, which opens Saturday.

Having served 575 children in Coupeville and Oak Harbor in 2015, organizers are anticipating the same level of need, if not more and the more community support the better.

“It has historically been that numbers have grown a little each year,” said organizer Vivian Rogers Decker, a Coupeville resident and student and family support specialist for the Oak Harbor School District.

In its 12th year, Holiday House offers an opportunity for parents to come into a store-like environment and choose gifts for their children.

“It’s nice for the parent to be able to go shopping for their kids,” said Christina Wertz, a Coupeville resident and volunteer. “They know best what they’re going to like.”

Presents are identified by different levels based on value: bronze are less than $10, silver are less than $20 and gold are more than $20.

Each child gets one gold, one silver and two bronze presents, a stocking and 10 stocking stuffers, which are valued at $1.

To participate in the program, families must go through an application process through the child’s school in either school district.

Applications can be picked up at Coupeville Elementary School.

The first set of applications will be picked up this week, but Holiday House will be accepting applications through Dec. 21, Rogers Decker said.

The program is run mostly with volunteer support through the island-wide Readiness to Learn organization and in partnership with school districts on the island.

In 2015, of the 224 families were served by the North Whidbey location, 57 of them came from Coupeville.

“Coupeville would be lost without Holiday House,” Wertz said. “(And) it’s not just income based.”

“It could be situations, like if someone had a lot of medical bills that year.”

Wertz herself has used the program and volunteers each year as a way to give back to a program that has helped her.

It takes around 100 volunteers to run the program each year, Rogers Decker said.

Families that utilize the program schedule an appointment to shop. At that a appointment, there are volunteer greeters, personal shoppers and gift wrappers. There are also volunteers who are also constantly handling donations, restocking shelves and handling operations.

“We’re always looking for more volunteers,” Rogers Decker said.

In its first year, Holiday House operated out of Jenne Farm, then spent some time in various empty spaces throughout Coupeville, including three years where The Whidbey Examiner now resides in Coupe’s Village.

For the last two years, Holiday House has been able to operate out of space provided by the Oak Harbor School District.

Volunteers are busy this week gathering donations and getting things organized for Holiday House to open Saturday.

Toy donations are just starting to roll in, and the need is still there.

“Teen gifts are really hard for us to come by, especially electronics,” Wertz said. “We also need gold infant toys.”

Holiday House runs from Saturday, Dec. 17 and will be scheduling appointments through Christmas Eve.

Wertz said donations throughout the run of the program are vital.

“We need to stock shelves all through the program,” she said.

Toy donations can be taken to Collage Cards &Stationary on Pioneer Way and Skagit Farm Supply on State Highway 20. Monetary donations can be brought to SPIN Cafe, but make sure they are ear-marked for Holiday House.

For information about volunteering, call 360-279-5514.