The holiday season gets a heartfelt start at the Wisconsin State Journal as hundreds of letters from area students arrive. This year’s 316 letters explain how the students would use $200 to give back to their communities through the paper’s Helping Hands program.

Some write on behalf of their own families, others for people they know that need a little boost and others still for the good of the wider world around them—eradicating homelessness, helping local schools and supporting animal shelters are among the big requests.

One family in particular received letters of support from more than 40 students in Lodi between an entire first-grade class at Lodi Elementary School to dozens of individual letters from The Ouisconsing School of Collaboration. Neva Taylor, an educational assistant at Lodi Elementary, lost her husband unexpectedly at the end of October which prompted so many kids to reach out and help Taylor and her four children.

While every letter sent on their behalf was unique, they shared the common thread of wishing the family love, support and good wishes for the holiday season and beyond. Taylor and her family received their Helping Hands gift from Melissa Walsh’s first grade class at Lodi Elementary School on Nov. 29.

The following 28 letters were chosen to be funded by Helping Hands this year. The needs described in each letter were verified and several were edited for length and to protect the privacy of the writer or recipient. Funding through the State Journal Youth Services Inc. charitable arm and donors exceeded $10,000 this year, allowing for larger grants to more recipients than in previous years.

Dear Helping Hands,

If our class had $200 we would give it to one of our classmate’s family. Emma lost her dad unexpectedly on Oct. 22. He had a heart attack while driving to his farming job. Emma is the youngest of four children. Her oldest brother is graduating from high school this year, her sister is in eighth grade and she has a brother in fourth grade. Emma’s mom works part-time at our school as an educational assistant. They didn’t have lots of extra money before her dad died and now we worry about them even more. Please consider her family for this money. Thank you! — Mrs. Walsh’s first grade class, Lodi Elementary School

Weston Olsen, Olivia Homewood, Monroe Hillestad, Mike Yates, Mason Yates, Colin Stevenson, Ava Rolfe, Angelina Johnson, Zander Kellog, Sabrina Schmidt, Dakota Pierquet, Keleigh Bannach, Karter Kruger, Henry Homuth, Jesse Munson, Tycen Stuhr, Mikko LaMere, Bailee Erthum, Isabell Wipperfurth, Dougal Edwards, Aidan McMahon, Ryan Rolfe, Ayden Frandrich, Gracie Burkholder, Vince Puccio, Cyrus Clemens, Norah Gruel, Sophie Lincoln, Izzy Bahe, Katherine Frey, Brock Wendt, Beau Ripp, Katelynn Sellner, Michael O’Mara, Grace Morgan, Natalie Kelly, Sergio Berruecos Morales, Everett Clemens and Ella Johnson from The Ouisconsing School of Collaboration in Lodi also wrote letters about this family.

Dear Helping Hands,

My family is going through a hard time. We moved from La Crosse to Dane. When we lived in La Crosse my dad would work from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. When we left La Crosse we went to my cousin’s house. It was where we could stay for a while. After a few weeks my parents got a job. My mom works at the eye clinic and my dad makes tubs and silverware. One day he came home and he said my foot, ankle and back hurts, so he went to the doctor and the doctor said that his bone in his foot was out of place and he had something eating his bone. He has missed so many weeks of work and healed. My parents talk about how much money we spend on the weekends. Our bills need to be paid and my parents don’t have the money to pay them all. They use them on the weekends to make me and my brother happy. I can’t tell you how much I love my family. My family loves us very much that they spend their money on us. My dad doesn’t have the money to pay the bills for the doctor. I love my family very very much. They are my LIFE. — A Lodi Middle School student

Dear Helping Hands,

If I had $200 to help someone I would give it to my mom so she could buy a new phone. My little brother and sister broke her phone so now she can’t make appointments for us. Also, she can’t call her sister or her friends. My mom takes good care of us. She buys juices and makes popcorn and watches scary movies with us. — Third-grader, Sandburg Elementary

Dear Helping Hands,

There is a family in need of the $200 because my friend lost his dad and brother in a drowning incident. His mom works whenever she can to get money to pay the bills and get groceries. What I would do with the $200 is take a few days off work to get groceries and spend time with my family because the holidays are coming up. Thank you for reading this letter, I hope you pick this letter. — Audrey Dallman, fifth grade, The Ouisconsing School of Collaboration, Lodi

Simon Ricks, Issac Prosek, Melanie Hellenbrand and Catherine Zajicek from The Ouisconsing School of Collaboration in Lodi also wrote letters about this family.

Dear Helping Hands,

I think my family needs help because we don’t have winter clothes and don’t have food. I need help. — First grader, Hawthorne Elementary

Dear Helping Hands,

My family really needs help. We are always in the hole and can’t pay for food. Sometimes we don’t have enough money. We have two kittens and one dog. We can’t buy all the things they need. My dad has a job but he is never home and he wants to be with us. My parents are so stressed with money and bills, sometimes we pay our bills late because we can’t pay for them.

Last year on Christmas we had to get our presents from the Salvation Army and our grandparents. This year for Christmas me and my sister and brother will not be getting anything we might not even get a tree! My grandma has to help my mom with paying for my sister’s “Behind the Wheel.”

Last week we went to the store and we wanted some orange juice and two pumpkins to carve before Halloween, but our cards and check would not go through and we had no cash. My cousin and I were sad but it always happens. We get food stamps to help us with food sometimes and have to wait a week to get new food. When my dad is home some days he goes to the food pantry. My friend’s mom brings us some yogurt every once in a while and it is good. — Seventh grader, Richland Middle School

Dear Helping Hands,

If I win the writing contest I will use the prize to buy presents for my family. We have to move because the property we are living on is getting sold and so we are trying to save money to get a house, so I would buy the present for my family so they have money for a house. I would love to get the prize so I can help out my family. If I had some of the prize left I would find someone that needs it and I would let them have it. If I didn’t have any of the prize left I hope my family will be happy and I will still find someone that needs it and I will find some way to help him or her. — Seventh grader, Richland Middle School

Dear Helping Hands,

If I was given $200 I would help my friend. I noticed how much you need clothes, food, water and toys to play with outside. It’s probably not that fun for you in the winter because stuff is always being broken by your brothers and you don’t have anything to play with. I hope you have a good life. I hope you don’t have to be even more poor later in the year. I hope that you will get lucky someday. I hope you have a better life. You’re a good person. — A Highland Elementary School student

Dear Helping Hands,

I would like to help a friend. I like to help him. He wants to be a firefighter and a teacher when he grows up. He would like a firetruck, a football and books for Christmas.

I would love to help him because it makes me feel sad that he doesn’t get the same things as the other kids. It makes me happy when I get to help him. I think it would make him feel really excited to wake up in the morning and get gifts that he wants and needs.

If I win $200 I would start by going to Walmart and getting my friend the things he needs like clothes and a toothbrush. Then I would spend the rest of the money on things he wants for Christmas. I would also get a puzzle to do at school with him. After I get the gifts I would surprise him by having them set up in the classroom. I would love to see his reaction when he walks in the room. — Tucker Degenhardt, fifth grade, Highland Elementary School

Dear Helping Hands,

Rita Mae is very nice. She helps people when they need it and she is very sweet. She loves dogs and even does doggy daycare for people in town.

Recently, Rita Mae has been having health problems. We just thought it was terrible, so we thought the $200 would help.

If we were chosen as a winner we would use the $200 to help with medical bills and gas to get to her appointments. Also food when she is at the appointments and for her doctor bills. We also thought they could use it for house bills and food at home. — Gavin Shemak, Yezlin Mondragon-Gaytan, Bennett Smith and Jon Anderson, fifth grade, Highland Elementary School.

Dear Helping Hands,

I would like the $200 for Helping Hands to go to a little boy named Henry because he has Cerebral Palsy, a thing you are born with, which causes him to not be able to sit up by himself. He is 3-years-old and cannot play in the bathtub because he cannot sit up.

The money would be helpful because there is a special bath chair he could use so he can play in the bath. — Eily Bacskai, fifth grade, Nuestro Mundo Community School

Dear Helping Hands,

I feel very strongly that Belen could really use the $200. I feel this way because she cannot support her family and pay the bills at the same time. This money would be of great use to her because she has a family of three children including an infant and infants require a lot of care, especially during the winter holidays because of the cold. Also Belen cannot afford gifts this upcoming holiday and I know she would hate to have her kids upset. I understand that you are considering a lot of letters for Helping Hands, but I believe Belen and her family could really use the $200 to have a happy holiday and keep up with the bills. Thank you very much for considering my letter and for donating money to help people. — Caroline Talis, fifth grade, Nuestro Mundo Community School

Esdras Jose Avellaneda also wrote a letter for Belen.

Dear Helping Hands,

I know a girl that lives in town. She has clothes that aren’t the best and my 4H Club gave a Thanksgiving basket to her family and I know that wasn’t enough. If I had $200 I would give it to her because she is never or rarely is in a sad mood and I think she deserves a good holiday. — Cade Kuhls, eighth grade, Iowa-Grant Elementary and Middle School

James Johnson, Grace Lenz, Marijah Kammes, Abigail Fowell and Hailey Howell also wrote about this student.

Dear Helping Hands,

If I had $200 I would give it to a girl I know. She is my best friend and her family doesn’t have a lot of money. She has three siblings and her mom is an only parent. My friend is always tired and hungry. She feeds her siblings before she feeds herself. Their landlord told them that he’s selling their house and now they are trying to build a new house. She and her family deserve a good holiday this year. — Mackenzie Leitzinger, eighth grade, Iowa-Grant Elementary and Middle School

Payton Schmitz, Montanna Freymiller and Ava Wendhausen also wrote about this student.

Dear Helping Hands,

I know of a family that could use $200. Approximately one year ago this family was injured in a severe car accident. In their vehicle was the husband, wife and their two kids. Everyone was very injured the worst being the husband. The husband couldn’t work as a milk truck driver anymore because of his injuries. The husband was the only one providing for the family as the wife stayed home with their children. This has been a hardship for the family.

After one year all of their savings is almost gone. The wife has been working part time when she can. Recently, last month, the husband again had another surgery. This surgery required the doctors to replace disks in his neck. The surgery requires the doctors to go through the front of his neck. He has had to learn to walk and swallow again. He is only allowed to stand up three times a day. The husband is eager to heal and get back to work, but right now money is very tight. I think they would appreciate a little something to help, especially with the upcoming holidays. — Joss James, fifth grade, Mineral Point Elementary

Dear Helping Hands,

There is a boy in my school and I just found out his dad is sick. If I got the money it would help his dad with food and medication. This would help him get stronger and hopefully get out of his wheelchair. I hope he feels better soon. I would feel very happy to help him this holiday season. — Jake Blindt, third grade, Northside Elementary, Middleton

Dear Helping Hands,

I would like to help my friend to get a helping hand. She has Rett Syndrome and isn’t able to walk. Her family could use some help in building an accessible bathroom for her and her special chair. She is fun, smart and kind. I am so glad to be her friend. Thank you. — Matilda Putney, third grade, Northside Elementary, Middleton

Dear Helping Hands,

Have you ever woken up to get ready to go to work but then there is no food for you to take to work? If I had $200 to help my mom I would use the money to buy her some clothes, shoes and food to eat at home and work and help our family too.

My first reason is my mom has a lot of us to take care of and she doesn’t have a lot of money to buy us food. I have eleven siblings and that is a lot of us to feed.

My second reason is my mom works hard all of the time and I don’t get to see her at all. I feel this way because I never get to see her at all when she comes home because it’s really dark.

My final reason is my mom tries really hard to take care of us all the time because my dad passed away, so it’s really hard for her. I think this because I see her trying her best to take care of us when we are sick. I hope you choose my letter because I want to buy my mom some clothes, shoes to wear and food to eat everyday. — Fifth grader, Lake View Elementary

Harmonie Monfils also wrote about this family.

Dear Helping Hands,

I would buy my family beds, food and a house with $200. We sleep on the floor and it hurts our backs. My dad has to take meds and he has to go to meetings. When he comes home he is tired and he tries to cook, but we have no food. Then we get hungry and we have to wait until school starts so we can eat there. It happens mostly every day and we ask our dad if he has any money to get food and he says “no” and we say “okay.” It happens every day and we feel really hungry.

Our stomachs hurt we tell him and he says “I don’t have money to get food.” Please choose my letter. If you do it will make me happy. — Fifth grader, Lake View Elementary

Dear Helping Hands,

Can you imagine working all day and then coming home to do more work and you don’t have time to play with any of your kids? If I had $200 to help my Dad, I would use the money so my dad can buy our family clothes and help my mom get in a class so she can learn English.

My first reason is he doesn’t have enough money to buy us or himself clothes and food.

My second reason is my dad is trying to make my mom go in a class so she can learn English and get a job.

My third reason is my dad has a car, but not the money to pay for the fuel and he doesn’t have a bus card. I hope you choose my letter because my dad needs that $200 to buy us and himself clothes and food. — Fifth grader, Lake View Elementary

Dear Helping Hands,

Can you imagine going to bed hungry? If I had $200 to help my parents I would use the money to help them buy groceries.

My first reason is we can’t afford groceries. I know this because we used to buy groceries, but we don’t anymore. My second reason is I only eat food at school. My food schedule consists of breakfast at school, lunch at school and dinner barely anything. My final reason is we rarely eat dinner. I think this because our dinner is usually fast food. I hope you choose my letter because I’m tired of eating fast food. I want to eat spaghetti and pancakes again. — Fifth grader, Lake View Elementary

Dear Helping Hands,

I would like to give $200 to Jacob. He has been a family friend for a while and he is homeless. I really wish that I could give him the money because every time I go Downtown I see Jacob holding up a sign. I do feel really bad for Jacob because I don’t like seeing Jacob and others like that. Seeing Jacob like that really hurts on the inside. Jacob is the one that I would like to give $200 to. — Asia Young, sixth grade, Jefferson Middle School

Dear Helping Hands,

My name is Marlene Thompson and I am a student at SAPAR (a school for pregnant and parenting teens). I heard about your Helping Hands program through one of my teachers. I have a friend (who also attends SAPAR) that really could use the help. She is 17-years-old and she’s pregnant with her second child (a baby boy). She’s due pretty soon. My friend, her soon to be 3-year-old daughter and her boyfriend (the father of both children) currently stay with my friend’s grandmother. They’re planning to save for their own apartment and they hope to move in the summer of the upcoming year.

She does have a job, but she only makes $3.50 an hour plus tips. It’s not enough for two kids plus yourself and the child’s father. She’s pretty positive when it comes to her struggles though. If she doesn’t have the funds to provide the needs for her family, she usually asks for help. However, she doesn’t like to ask for money because it makes her feel guilty. She says her responsibilities aren’t everyone else’s.

My friend doesn’t like to stay in the house so she likes to take her daughter out to get fresh air at a park or pool during the summer or to a museum or library during the colder seasons. Her goal is to be able to provide money for her family’s needs and wants. She also wants a great relationship with the people she surrounds herself with because her actions and the actions of the people who surround her may affect her children. She wants a home so that her family doesn’t have to ever worry about where they have to lay their heads for the next day. Her biggest fear is simply that she won’t be able to support herself and her family. That would make her feel like she’s really failed.

Now these are just some of the many reasons I believe she could really use the help of you guys and I really hope you consider her for getting a helping hand. — Marlene Thompson, School Age Parent Program (SAPAR)

Dear Helping Hands,

We have a family friend who recently got out of the hospital. Her kids are not very fortunate and can’t afford much food. Our friend worries about them a lot. Once a month, when the church has a mobile food pantry, my family picks up food for their family. If I had $200 I would get them each Walmart gift cards so that they could go and buy some food. I wouldn’t stop there though. I would continue to raise money and donate it to them. Our family friend already has enough to worry about with her hospital bills. She doesn’t have time to be worrying about her kids as often as she does. She is no longer able to get around like she used to so she can’t pick up any food for them. It would mean so much if I was able to help them. — LeTeicia Michek, Highland High School

Dear Helping Hands,

My mom has been in a really rough time. She was fired from her old job and we had to move out. I have my dog, older sister, younger brother, my mom and me. I don’t know what I would do without my mom and siblings. My mom is in between jobs and now it’s going to get really tough. My mom makes these really good homemade tacos—they are the best ones I have ever eaten. I’m only 12-years-old and I really want to help my mom and siblings. If you could help my family out I’d really love it. — A student from Lodi Middle School Dear Helping Hands,

I know a family that is going through a hard time right now. The dad works his butt off in order to be able to pay the bills and would do anything for his kids. I know this family could really use some relief and a little extra money this holiday season. — A student at Lodi Middle School

Miranda Risher from Lodi Middle School also wrote about this family.

Samantha Leatherberry, Oliva Woodbury, Emery Crane, Grant Miller, Zoey Bahe, Lexie Birchler, Jacob Allen, Savanna Foote, Nellie Hatch, Cameron Tritt, Izzy Bahe, Ava Ballweg, Addison Crane, Hannah Davis, Trevor Meinking, Laurence Wood, Grant Beyer, Easton Hensen and Mia Walstad from The Ouisconsing School of Collaboration in Lodi also wrote letters about this family.

Dear Helping Hands,

If I had $200 to give to someone on the holiday, I would give it to a friend I know. He is so caring and kind to everyone. He doesn’t get much. His mom is trying to work to feed multiple kids. He comes to school sometimes with the same clothes on. He only has one hoodie to last him through the cold times. He just needs a little help. — Kora Kite, eighth grade, Iowa-Grant Elementary and Middle School

Reid Lundell, Treyton Starkey, Treven Trace, Arianna Barr, Ashton Foley, Owen Rundell, Zachary Kohlenberg, Conner Hogan, Savannah Vivian, Jackie Hawes and MaKayla Pilling also wrote about this student.

Dear Helping Hands,

If Helping Hands could give $200 to a needy family, we think this family deserves it because of ongoing health problems that both of them are going through and dealing with daily. The lady had to quit her job because she was too sick to work and she worked for a job that helped others—now she needs help. The doctors are having trouble treating her illness and she recently fell down the stairs which caused more problems. Her husband is going through some health issues and was in the hospital as well. He can’t drive her or himself to their medical appointments, so they have to depend on their friends to drive them to their appointments.

The husband has used up all of his vacation days at work due to all the medical problems. If Helping Hands could give them $200 they could use it for gas cards or a taxi service to get to their appointments without making them feel guilty for asking friends for rides. Please consider helping not just one person in this family but two! Thank you for having a program that helps needy people.

Roses are red, violets are blue, Helping Hands is great and they need you! — Lifka Bennett’s fifth grade class, Mineral Point Elementary (poem by Grady Mulligan)

0
0
0
2
0

Amanda Finn is an arts and lifestyle reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.