Giving back: Holly House brings cheer to Edmonds School District families

Volunteers Maria Skelton-Grover and Logan Carter.
Volunteers Maria Skelton-Grover and Logan Carter.

The spirit of the season was in full swing on Sunday at Meadowdale Middle School, as Lynnwood-based Holly House and its merry band of volunteers brightened the holidays for hundreds of families in need.

Holly House Executive director Pam Martinez, who started her annual charity event seven years ago, has seen the need grow so much that this year more than 2,300 children benefited, and some families had to be turned away.

Sunday’s event served families from 15 schools in the Edmonds School District. Registration slips were sent home to parents or guardians of low-income students, who then presented a confirmation slip during the day, which began at 8 a.m.

Toys, books, socks, bikes, stockings, coats and stuffed animals were just a few of the new and gently used items available, and all were free for parents and guardians to pick up for all their kids, from infants up to age 17.

Families shop during the Holly House event.
Families shop during the Holly House event.

“When I was little, God told me I was going to do something good,” said Martinez. “I am just humbled when I see what He has led me to do.” And Martinez does a lot, as she and her more than 300 volunteers work year-round for one big day, collecting donations, shopping, holding sorting parties and spending two days on set up.

“It’s the joy of season, giving of your time,” said second-year volunteer Sarah Enos. Last year, she brought food, donated by Lynnwood’s Sparta’s Pizza & Spaghetti House where she works, to be served to volunteers. She said she knew she wanted to help this year. She’s now in charge of Sparta’s annual toy drive for Holly House.

Holly House has served Maria Skelton-Grover and her family for three years. This year, she also decided she was also going to volunteer. “I feel good coming in and doing this, and I’ve brought people here from my work to volunteer as well. It puts me in the Christmas spirit, and it feels good to know I can come here when I need it.”

Meadowdale High School senior Logan Carter spent more than 25 hours helping Holly House for his senior project. “It feels great to be able to help,” he said.

Those interested in donating or volunteering for Holly House in 2014 can email Martinez at or call 425-422-1092.

To learn more about Holly House, go to its website or Facebook page.

— Story and photos by Brian Soergel

  1. This project gets bigger every year and more volunteers are needed as it grows. Just over 200 children in the first year and now in 2013 over 2300 children were able to get gifts, pajamas, and even presents for mom and dad. The best part is seeing all of the families who get to have Christmas because of this project. Please become part of the Christmas magic by donating, volunteering or telling people about it.

  2. I am a mom of three children in the Edmonds School District. Recently I fell on hard times when I had severe medical issues that put me in the hospital for long stay. I contacted my children’s school Meadowdale high to see about getting some Christmas help after seeing flyers for the Holly house in the high school. And my children’s school counselor told me that she thought I was already signed up for it. I was given the programs contact number And when I called it I was rudely told that the Meadowdale high school was not covered in the program. I questioned about the posters in the high school and was told that they were having the high school help fundraise. I also informed the director of the program about the school counselor saying I was signed up. She told me that Holly House only serves 9 schools and the Meadowdale High school, (which was said with a tone of disgust) is not one of them. I let the school counseling office know of this conversation and everyone I talked to was equally dismayed and surprised that not only was the schools underpriveledged students left out, but that the program was advertising and collecting gifts from the students at Meadowadale. I was really relying on Holly House for my children to have a Christmas. They already had to go through staying at an unfamiliar home while almost losing their mother who was in serious condition in the hospital for almost a month, now I have to try and find a way for them to have a Christmas as we (the school and i)have not been able to find another program because of time. I think that Holly House should include ALL low incomes students in the Edmonds School Dist., not just the ones lucky enough to go to the nine that is chosen. This also happened two years ago, families stood in line for over 4 hours, with their copies of the forms given by district social workers, only to be turned away empty handed when they got to the front of the line, even though everyone was served and there was an abundance of gifts. The abundance being the reason that the families were allowed on the list to begin with. Holly House is a great idea and a blessing to some, but should not just be a blessing to a chosen few, but available to all the kids that need it in the school district.

  3. Heidi: My understanding is that Holly House this year served 15 schools, all elementary and one junior high. My advice is to get in touch with Pam Martinez for further explanation. Her email and phone number are in the story.

    1. Thank you for your suggestions. I think Holly house is wonderful and much needed in this community. I am still recovering from sepsis, renal failure resulting from pnuemonia. Im also now sporting a medical boot on my foot and looking at surgery. Im homebound the majority of the time with in home nursing care which is been a life saver for my kids and I. The reasons im upset is that I received the flyer/ invite in the mail and was thrilled that I would be receiving help to give my kids a christmas, the school was under the impression as well. For this reason I didnt pursue other outlets. I called Pam after getting her number from the school, who confirmed with me that i was signed up. Pam is the one who told me nine schools were being helped and Meadowdale was not included. The school was surprised and tried to help but later called and said there was nothing they could do. the school has been great and was able to give me $100 worth of Fred Meyer gift cards, and they’ve been looking up online and making phone calls trying to find another source for me but its too late in the season. What really surprises me is that the same thing happened two years ago except I stood in line from 6 hours first before being turned away even though I had the forms in my hand filled out by the school social worker showing I was signed up. They told me it was a mistake. I gave them the social workers name, told them id been waiting six hours, they wouldnt budge. The worse part is there was a full gym full of gifts and I was one of the last three people in line. Six other families were wrongfully turned away as well. It got sorted latrr, but we were all supposed to be helped. For this to happen this year issurprising. There are many families at Meadowdale H.S. that need help, and for weeks the students have been looking at posters advertising Holly House, but like my kids get told theres no help for them because they go to MeasMeadowdale? I just wish there was a better way andbbr that if they send invites offering, they should honor it. I would also like to say how proud and blessed I am to live in such a giving community and pray that next year I will be healthy enough to volunteer myself. God bless, and Merry Christmas!

  4. This is the first year I had heard of Holly house and was quite surprised what a big production it is. I was amazed by all they offer to families and that the parents actually get to shop for a gift. What a blessing Holly House and all of the hard working volunteers are to the community. It is a truly wonderful program and I enjoyed volunteering and look forward to volunteering more this coming year.

    Heidi Bryan- have you looked into Christmas House for holiday help they are located in Everett.

    Thank you and Merry Christmas!

  5. Holly House did serve 15 schools in the Edmonds School District this year. The small staff from Holly House worked tirelessly from Friday until after 3:30 am on Monday with the help of various volunteers to set up the shopping experience for families. The founders of this organization barely took a breath and now they’ve already started working on 2014. This December Holly House had signed up over 2300 children. I say a giant THANK YOU to these people who work twelve months a year to provide assistance to those in need. As a teacher in the district, I have volunteered for the past two years, not realizing what an enormous undertaking this is. I realize I can impact the 28 students in my classroom, but Holly House can impact over 2,000 children and their families community wide. Everything they do is to help families and children and I feel fortunate to have been a teeny tiny part of that last weekend.

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