Long-time Holiday House chairs prepare to wrap up their last season of giving

For more than two decades, Cherie Steele and Cindy Overton have helped provide holiday gifts for CPTC student families.

By Jean Borst

Even the most dedicated holiday elves deserve to hang up their curly-toed boots at some point.

After years spearheading a beloved gift-giving tradition at Clover Park Technical College (CPTC), Cherie Steele, Senior Executive Assistant to the President, and Cindy Overton, eLearning Support Specialist, are preparing to co-chair their last Holiday House on Dec. 6.

The dynamic duo has teamed for more than 20 years to oversee the annual event that brings holiday cheer to student parents and their children. They both plan to retire from CPTC the end of December.

Long history of giving

Holiday House began in 1986 when two employees provided food for 25 student families. Since then, the event has grown by leaps and bounds, thanks to a team of dedicated Holiday House organizers and the generosity of faculty, staff, students and the community.

Each year, college departments, classes and individual employees and community partners adopt a CPTC student parent in need and purchase presents and grocery store gift cards for their family. Proceeds from a basket raffle held in the fall and donations made to the Clover Park Technical College Foundation cover gifts for any families that aren’t adopted.

Last year, Holiday House distributed gifts to 48 student families, including 107 children. To date, gifts have been provided for more than 4,100 children and generated more than $260,000 in donations.

“Year after year, we’ve been awed by the dedication of volunteers and generosity of staff, faculty and individuals,” Steele said. “There have been so many generous people at the college and in the community who help with the event and adopt our students.”

Holiday memories to last a lifetime

As longtime co-chairs, Steele and Overton have a bundle of Holiday House memories between them. None of them are more vivid than those provided by the student families they help.

“For me, it’s all about joy on the faces of the children and the look of relief on the faces of our students,” Steele said. “They don’t have to worry about how to provide gifts and food for their families.”

For Overton, small moments have offered some of the most meaningful memories.

“I will never forget the little boy who brought a decorated homemade candy cane for the tree,” she said. “He was so cute, and it was just one example of how the people we help want to give back when they can.”

Holiday House has also been about building family memories. Steele’s husband once made an appearance as Santa. Every year, Overton’s husband delivers a slew of holiday decorations from their home to help create a festive atmosphere. Her daughter has also helped with shopping.

And there are still more memories in the making. Steele and Overton plan to stay involved with Holiday House by donating gift baskets, adopting a family or lending a hand on gift pickup day.

Passing the Santa hat

Going forward, Holiday House planning will be left in the capable hands of a dedicated crew. Current committee member Sheli Sledge, Administrative Assistant for the CPTC Office of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, will assume chair duties along with another yet-to-be-named elf. She plans to continue the committee’s work to make Holiday House more inclusive and accessible to reach more CPTC student families.

“Cherie and Cindy have put so much time and passion into this committee to help our students and their children, and I’m so honored to take over,” Sledge said. “Our great team of doers and givers will keep this long-standing tradition going strong into the future.”

Being able to help families in need carries special significance for Sledge.

“As a child, I was on the receiving end of similar programs,” she said. “I know how much it means to have gifts or food for the holidays when you aren’t expecting anything.”

Holiday House will be held Tuesday Dec. 6, in the CPTC Rotunda (Building 3).

Learn more about Holiday House on the CPTC Foundation website.