It’s beginning to look – and feel – a lot like Christmas as Huron Valley Schools staff and students put final touches on three long-running programs aimed at making the holidays happier for local families.
At Lakeland, Holiday Hope for Kids is the school’s longest running program and dates back to the mid 1970’s. Today, the program runs through the LHS Leadership program. Students raise money with an annual bowl-a-thon, community donations and support from local businesses. Once the money is collected, students shop, wrap gifts and plan a holiday extravaganza party for approximately 100 students with special needs, both from Huron Valley and other districts in Oakland County. Lakeland Leadership Teacher Scott Rolando says santa comes, everyone gets a gift and the LHS band and choir both perform. He says “It’s a very nice event for the kids and we’re super proud to continue this legacy and tradition that helps define Lakeland High School.” Rolando said the leadership class is close to meeting its goal of $6,000 but is still accepting donations and sponsorships.
At Milford High School, the Milford Miracles program has been going strong for many decades. Each year, the Leadership class takes charge of fundraising efforts, which include drives, donations and friendly rivalries among teachers who feel strongly about the program and compete to see who can prevail as the top fundraiser. Local businesses also support the program with donations and by allowing collection jars in stores. This year, the program raised approximately $14,000 to bring Christmas gifts and meals to struggling families, who are referred from across the HVS district by workers and counselors. Students shop for and wrap gifts. MHS Leadership teacher Dave Gilbert says a lot of students don’t realize the need in their community. He says “This program shows them the world is bigger than the one they live in every day. They see the follow-up, the thank you letters from the families who are impacted. It’s very eye opening for them.”
The Angel Tree program got started in the 1980s when HVS bus drivers got together to help out a handful of students who were in need of basic necessities, like winter coats or boots. The program has grown every year since, and this year will benefit over 100 students and younger siblings. To fund the program, the transportation department hosts a bake sale several times each year. Raffles and donations also help, as does the Stuff-the-Bus program, which began four years ago. Bus Attendant and 16-year Angel Tree organizer Wendy Cota says they had a great response from the community this year, more than ever. She says “People will bring things and say ‘You guys came through to help us when we didn’t have anything. Now we want to give something back.’” This year, Cota said, the program netted cash, gift cards gift donations valued at approximately $20,000. She added transportation employees volunteer time and talent to support the program they believe in. Cota says they’re the first ones to see the kids every day. Cota said all program recipients are identified by social workers to make sure efforts are not overlapping with other programs. She says they know if they need a new coat or boots or something else and everyone wants to step up for the kids. This year, White Lake Fire Department joined in the effort and will provide a new winter coat for each recipient.
Many of the HVS middle and elementary schools host individual holiday programs to collect food and gifts for local families. (JM)