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Ludington schools Giving Tree program begins second year

November 14, 2018

The Ludington Area School District’s Giving Tree program will try to brighten the holidays for more area families this year.

The program, now entering its second year, hopes to expand and help 95 families celebrate the 2018 holidays.

The Giving Tree program was created in 2017 through the efforts of LASD school counselors and the Mason County Family Link to better coordinate the various individual school programs into one district-wide program that covers students from pre-k through high school. The Giving Tree, along with the county-wide Shop with a Cop program, serve to help area families during the holiday season.

“We’re working on coordinating the identification of families to avoid any duplication in the programs that we have here at Ludington Area Schools — we want to serve as many families as possible,” said Amanda Kuczynski, community school coordinator for the Mason County Family Link.

Kuczynski, along with the school counselors, work together to identify the families who need additional help through the holidays. Last year, the program assisted 61 LASD families and is committed to raising that number to 95 families this year.

For the LASD Giving Tree program, families are identified by the school counselors and Family Link in each building and receive letters home detailing the process. Once a family is accepted into the program, they are able to choose from shopping events held at Ludington Meijer and Walmart.

When parents and families arrive to the shopping event, they are able to shop for their children with an identified amount that is the same for each family. From there, they check out with a Giving Tree volunteer and are able to wrap their gifts to take them home. Both Meijer and Walmart donate gift wrap and supplies to the program.

“Last year, families who participated expressed deep gratitude for the program. Having the opportunity to choose some gifts for their children meant that they could celebrate the holidays without sacrificing their family’s basic needs,” said Amy Marsh, counselor at O.J. DeJonge Middle School.

Marsh also higsaid that many benefits of the program are ones that may not always be readily available.

“Many parents of older kids also appreciated the chance to go shopping together with their child and spend some quality time together,” she said.

“The first year of the Giving Tree was extremely successful from our point of view. We realized that by combining the individual school holiday programs into one district-wide program that it really made our efforts more efficient. By working together, we were able to touch more families in a more impactful way,” said Jennifer Shaw, Lakeview Elementary School counselor.

This year, the program is adding Ludington High School to the program.

“Although LHS has a long history of helping students and families, we are excited to formally join efforts with the LASD Giving Tree Program this year,” said Laura Powers, counselor at Ludington High School. “Older students in particular are most aware of how costly it can be to celebrate the holidays and that cost especially impacts students from financially strapped households. Through the Giving Tree Program, we hope to give LHS students and parents an opportunity to experience the joy of giving to one another.”

The Ludington Area School Giving Tree program will partner with Barley and Rye’s Breakfast with Benefits on Saturday, Nov. 17 from 9 a.m. to noon. A percentage of the sales from the breakfast will be donated to the Giving Tree program.

The LASD Giving Tree Program is also funded through Giving Trees at Lakeview, Franklin and Foster elementary schools, the Santa Shop at O.J. Middle School, and donations submitted by the LASD Staff, students and community. If you are interested in helping local families to have a happier holiday, call Amanda Kuczynski at (231) 233-6135 or email at akuczynski@lasd.net.

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