Every December, the Host A Family (HAF) organization strives to ensure a memorable and meaningful Christmas for more than 300 families who struggle to make ends meet throughout the school districts of Stoughton, Oregon and McFarland.
For the past 30 years, local individuals and businesses have stepped up, providing gifts anonymously through the HAF program.
Host A Family matches families in need with sponsors who want to give through its website, hostafamily.org. Changes this year to the site allows hosts to select from a menu of families who have provided age-appropriate gift suggestions for their children, in addition to a requested gift card or item for the family.
Sue Schadewald, a Host A Family board member, said gifts for each child in the family range in price from $40-$50 in addition to a family gift. Hosts can select online the size of family they would like to host.
“This program is a great way to involve families, friends and companies who’d like to share the joy of the season, locally,” said Schadewald.
“Some of the most requested items from families applying to be sponsored include gift cards for food or gas, as well as warm clothing or educational toys for the little ones.”
Dane County Health and Human Services, churches, schools, and individuals also refer many of the families in need to HAF. The commonality among them is that all are challenged in finding the basics like food and shelter. Some are homeless. Many are experiencing short-term financial crises.
“In these inflationary times, the need in the community has never been greater, so I’m hoping that those who can, will give,” said Schadewald. “We always have families referred to us at the last minute, so it is critical that we have a supply of gift cards or chamber bucks to ensure that everyone will receive something this holiday season.”
She added, “Providing gifts for these families through the program will make the season a little brighter for those who give, as well as for those who will receive them. Many recipients have told us how grateful they are because these are the only gifts their children get for the holidays.”
In all, Schadewald estimates more than 1,000 gifts are provided and distributed. Those who’d like to help with this process at Lakeview Church in Stoughton can go online at hostafamily.org to register for a time to volunteer.
“For those who like to shop, we recommend supporting local retailers in this effort. Those who prefer to purchase items online can also help our organization by going to smile.amazon.com and designate Host-A-Family as their charity of choice. A percentage of the buyer’s eligible purchases will then be donated to HAF. Schadewald noted, “You don’t even have to be a host to participate in this fundraising program for our organization.”
Tax-deductible donations also can be sent to the Host-a-Family Program, P.O. Box 295, Stoughton, WI 53589. Tax receipts are available upon request.