Monday, November 18, 2013

Answers to Planning Holiday Help Questions

I've gotten several questions from you awesome school counselors from my previous post about planning and implementing holiday assistance programs at your school.  So here's my responses to some of my more frequent questions:

-How far in advance do you plan for your holiday help program?
I usually make/print the tags and labels (they're not filled out yet) for the tree in late October and I send home letters to families in early November. I have a quick turnaround time for letters to be returned back to me (usually less than a week) and I am very firm on forms being turned in by the due date.

-What do you do when numbers aren't taken from the tree to help students and families?
I haven't really had that problem.  I have the tree up before Thanksgiving break (the parents at my school expect it to be up by then, just in case they want to shop on Black Friday) and my principal mentions it in her weekly message.  Last year within 2 days of the announcement all of the tags were taken (I added more gift cards to the tree later to "refill" it and those were also taken in a matter of days)  

Snowman tree
Tags on the tree

-Does everyone bring back their gifts if they take a number off the tree?
Yes (knocks on wood)!  I'm very fortunate to work in a school where parents are extremely supportive with this project and are more than willing to donate to our families in need.  

-What do you do if someone doesn't bring in their gifts?
When the parents take a number off the tree, there's portion that they must fill out for me to keep track of who has what number.  I am able to contact the people with "missing gifts" (if needed).  I also add gift cards (in any amount) to various stores to our tree in the event that someone doesn't bring in a gift that we can also give out if a gift is missing.  

-What if a parent doesn't come in for their child's parent conference as required for the holiday help program?
Unfortunately if a parent does not come in for a conference their child's name does not go on the tree.  I also am very firm with this and stress this point (several times) in my letter.  My administration fully supports me on this rule.  The teachers at my school are great with letting me know who's come in for a conference.  In fact some of our hard to reach parents (we all have them at our schools) came in for their conference because they wanted to be sure to be put on the tree, so it's worked out pretty well. 

One more thing that we do is write a thank you note to every person that donates a gift for the snowman tree.  I use the contact info cards that the parents fill out when they take a number off the tree to know who to address the thank you note to.  The administration and student support services team all take a stack of names and write the note to those parents (we do them after the holidays & send them home with their children).  So many parents were so impressed with our handwritten notes afterwards!  

Planning for a holiday assistance program at your school is very doable, but takes a little planning.  Good luck as you prepare for the upcoming holidays at your school.

Do you have any other tips to share for how you plan and implement holiday help at your school?

Pin It


  1. Hey Andrea, thanks for the great ideas! I've been brainstorming some ways to do our program better...would you mind sharing a template for the tags you use?

    1. Hi Lisa, I created my tags using Avery postcards and Avery shipping labels. You should be able to use the label template (which is in Word) for the labels to put in the info that you need for gifts and such. Good luck, thanks for reading!