Giving Tree Program helps LASD students.

November 19, 2019

Giving Tree Program helps LASD students.

LUDINGTON — The holidays will be a little bit brighter for Ludington area families this year thanks to the Ludington Area School District’s Giving Tree Program. The program’s 2019 goal is to expand and help 120 area families celebrate the 2019 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/Shop with a Hero program, serve to help area families over the holiday season.

“The first and second year of the Giving Tree were both extremely successful from our point of view,” said Jennifer Shaw, Lakeview Elementary counselor. “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.

“We’re always working on coordinating the identification of families to avoid any duplication in all of the programs that we have within Ludington Area Schools – we want to serve as many families as possible,” said Amanda Kuczynski, community school coordinator for the Mason County Family Link in Ludington Area School District. Kuczynski, along with the school counselors, work together to identify the families who need additional help through the holidays and to run the Giving Tree Program. In the first year, the program assisted 61 LASD families and last year, served 91 families. This year, the Giving Tree is committed to raising that number to 120 families.

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 attend a shopping event held at Ludington Meijer and Walmart. Once parents and families arrive to the shopping event, they are able to shop for their children and family 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, along with refreshments.

“We absolutely believe that each family should have the experience and dignity of being able to select their own gifts for each other and for their kids. To me, this is one of the best aspects of the Giving Tree Program – it allows each family to do that,” said Kuczynski.

“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, OJ DeJonge Middle School counselor. Many benefits of the program are ones that may not always be readily available, Marsh said. “Many parents of older kids also appreciated the chance to go shopping together with their child and spend some quality time together.”

“The Giving Tree Program created for students who don’t necessarily have the money for Christmas is a blessing,” said Allie, a Ludington High School student who is also a past participant of the program. “Growing up with not having a lot, this program helped me to be able to have the Christmas cheer that everyone deserves and to give back to the people who have helped me the most. I hope that this program continues on in the future – not only to purchase toys but to be able to bring everyone a little bit of hope and holiday cheer.”

The Ludington Area School Giving Tree Program will partner with Barley and Rye’s Breakfast with Benefits on Saturday, November 30, 2019 from 9 a.m. – 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 located at Lakeview, Franklin and Foster Elementary Schools, the Santa Shop at OJ Middle School, the Ludington High School Glow Night and donations submitted by the LASD Staff, students and the Ludington community. If you are interested in helping local families to have a happier holiday, please call Amanda Kuczynski at 231-233-6135 or email at [email protected].

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