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 Spreading Holiday Cheer With Solutions for Change

NCCSE 1 - cropped.jpg​Teams of employees all over the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) spend their days supporting the educational needs of students and their families, so helping others is the norm.

One such team at SDCOE’s North Coastal Consortium for Special Education (NCCSE) is inspired by the holiday season of giving to do even more. For the past dozen years, NCCSE team members based at the North County Regional Education Center in San Marcos have adopted a family for the holidays, providing Christmas decorations, gifts, household goods, food, and other requested needs.

“We get tremendous joy from the effort,” said Lisa Houghtelin, NCCSE’s special education parent liaison.

The North Coastal Consortium for Special Education is a Special Education Local Planning Area composed of 14 school districts in North County. It is responsible for ensuring that every eligible child receives appropriate services.

About five years ago, the NCCSE team turned to Vista-based nonprofit Solutions for Change when looking for a family to adopt. Solutions for Change works with families to permanently end their homelessness, focusing on the problems that led to a family’s homeless situation.

“It is so rewarding to know we are making a difference directly in the life of particular people who, because they are in the program, are working very hard to become self-supporting,” Houghtelin said. “It is particularly rewarding because there are children involved.”

NCCSE participates through a Solutions for Change holiday program called “Breaking & Entering.” While a family is out, Solutions allows volunteers into the apartment to set up a Christmas tree and decorations and leave gifts. Solutions for Change houses the families it serves in more than 100 apartments in North County, including a Solutions-owned complex in Vista. This year, on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, the NCCSE team played Santa and elves for a single mother and her 5-year-old and infant sons.

“It is our favorite celebration of the holidays,” Houghtelin said. “We have such fun bringing all the items in, organizing them, packing up in all our cars and caravanning over. We take pictures as we decorate, admiring the decorating abilities of each other and then we share them with everyone in the office.”

Nearly two dozen team members pitch in, signing up to buy everything from a Christmas tree and decorations, to games and stocking stuffers, to dishes and holiday meal supplies.

Lorraine Wyant, a NCCSE coordinator, initiated the office’s adopt-a-family effort about a dozen years ago, when she and her colleagues were looking for a way to help families during the holidays.

“Solutions for Change was brought up and has been a great, rewarding organization to support,” Wyant said. “I love the commitment they have to changing the lives of homeless families. Families also must be committed to making the changes necessary to affect their lives in a positive way. It is a great example for us of how an organization can make a huge impact on the lives of individuals who are truly committed to making lifelong changes.”