The Verona Area School District is once again co-organizing the annual Helping Hands holiday gift drive program.

As in past years, the program will help local families in need with holiday gifts. Social Workers from the VASD team up with the local FFA, Dane County Joining Forces for Families and the Badger Prairie Needs Network to offer the annual program.

Now through Friday, Nov. 22, district residents with children up to age 18 who attend or will attend VASD schools in need of assistance may register to be recipients. There is an online Google form they can complete, or they may contact a school social worker or a translator to register.

Program organizer Stacie Wagner encourages the use of the form.

“We’ve been using the Google Form for the past five years or so and it has worked really well,” she said. “Our school social workers have high student ratios, so the form has allowed us to retain this program while not exacerbating our workload.”

As families register to be recipients, the VAHS FFA Club creates paper mittens with specific requests based on their needs. The school social workers then post the mittens, creating displays in their schools.

These ‘helping hand’ mittens will be posted at each school in the entry area or office, starting Monday, Nov. 11. Donors may pick up a mitten from any VASD school and purchase an age appropriate gift.

Anyone in the area is welcome to donate gifts, gift cards, or cash to the program, though Wagner said clothing or used items should not be donated. No single gift should exceed $30 and all donations should be left unwrapped.

She said the program often receives lots of items for children ages up to 10 years, but is typically low on items for ‘tweens’ and teens.

People and organizations can donate gifts at any time between Friday, Nov. 11 and Monday, Dec. 9, and the items will go to children in the Verona Area School District who are in need this holiday season.

The VAHS FFA Club collects the gifts, sorts them by ages and assigns them to families who requested assistance (each is assigned a number to maintain confidentiality), and organizes the bags of gifts for pick up. Joining Forces for Families and the Badger Prairie Needs Network connect VASD families to this resource and assist families as needed with registration.

Wagner said she’s proud of continued success of Helping Hand.

“We spend so much of our time helping families through very stressful situations to overcome barriers, that it is nice to take a moment for something lighter that brightens the spirits of so many children during the winters,” she said.

If you are in need of holiday gift assistance, complete the online Google form and submit by 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 22. If a family is unable to complete the electronic form, they may contact any of the school district’s social workers or interpreters.

If you are interested in donating toys and gifts, bring them to any school in the Verona district prior to the end of the school day on Monday, Dec. 9.

Neal Patten can be contacted at neal.patten@wcinet.com.