Eighteen Olympic Peninsula families are a little happier this holiday season thanks to the generous staff of the Olympic ESD. In a program that’s been in practice since the late 90’s, families that receive ESD services can be elected to receive a little extra support through the Christmas Angel program during the holiday season if they not able to access existing community resources.
In early fall, ESD employees try to connect families that are a part of the ESD’s Head Start, Early Head Start, ECEAP and Pathways to Success programs to existing holiday help programs, like Toys for Tots, Kitsap Community Resources, the Salvation Army, and local food banks. For whatever reason, some families fall through the cracks and aren’t eligible for assistance or support. These caring employees work with the families to make sure they are connected to these existing resources, then take their information for the OESD’s Christmas Angel Program coordinated by Donna Wagner and Emily Manson.
Donna Wagner, the co-coordinator for the Christmas Angel Program notes, “Every year we ask the agency staff members if they want to participate and move forward, and every year I’m overwhelmed by the response.” Staff members participate to bring a little extra joy by picking a child (only age, size and needed items are provided) and purchasing items the family can put under the tree. Items are brought to the ESD and sorted by staff elves to be delivered to the families. Staff purchase items out of their own pockets and this year, helped 18 families, a total of over 38 children. Last year, the ESD supported 27 families and over 51 children.
In a season that may be difficult for so many families, it can be made a little brighter thanks to the generosity of the Olympic ESD staff. A family advocate that works with families receiving assistance shared this:
I dropped off presents to a grandma raising three grandchildren. I brought in one bag and she was excited and touched. But you should have seen her face when I said I was not finished, I was going to get another bag. And then again, when I told her I had a gift card too. She was amazed and so very touched. Thank you for helping this family have a nice Christmas considering all that they are going through right now in their lives.