Since Turning Points began, the staff would try to make the holidays a joyous time for children. Each year students would create a wish list of a few items they would like and staff would pick a name and shop for that student. Students would receive their gift at our holiday party.
Staff did a great deal of “front loading” with students; helping them understand what would be a realistic gift, such as the amount of the gift (there was a $20.00 limit), was the gift easily accessible, what happens if the item the student chooses isn’t available, etc. Although the concept was in the spirit of giving, it often ended in children being disappointed for various reasons. Staff would work with students to help children express their disappointment in healthy ways, but we realized that gift-giving brings up a wide range of emotions for children, and what we thought might be a good idea, may actually be triggering children.
We brought this subject up at our weekly community meeting. Staff and students discussed ways in which we could celebrate the holiday and the spirit of giving in different ways. We discussed the idea of finding local charities to donate to. Students got excited about the idea of giving to others. Lots of ideas were generated as to how we could help others in our community. Students worked in their homeroom classes to research and choose a local entity to contribute to in lieu of receiving gifts at Turning Points.
This year children chose three entities to give to:
The Frontier Animal Society – dog and cat food, kitty litter, and toys for the dogs and cats at the shelter. In addition, some baked goods were provided for the shelter’s staff.
Maple Lane Nursing Home – a gift certificate was purchased from a local barber and hairdresser to provide haircuts to those residing in the nursing home.
Northeast Kingdom Community Action (NEKCA) – students purchased food for the local food shelf.