Throughout the month of November, students, staff and community members alike have been encouraged to participate in the 21st annual “Giving Tree” event put on by CWU’s Center for Leadership and Community Engagement (CLCE).
The Giving Tree event ran the entire month of November out of the SURC. Completely reliant on voluntary donations, the Giving Tree provides the opportunity to give back to lower-income children in the Kittitas County and surrounding counties, according to CLCE Community Programmer Nola Longacre.
This year, Lincoln Elementary, Mt. Stuart Elementary, Valley View, Kittitas Elementary, Early Childhood Learning, Bright Beginnings, Apoyo, Morris Schott Elementary, Mattawa Elementary, Saddle Mountain, the Douglas Honors College Operation Elf and Morgan Middle were involved in the event.
Longacre is currently a junior majoring in business with a specialization in leadership and management. She has worked at the CLCE as a community programmer for a year and a half and was co-lead for last year’s Giving Tree event. According to Longacre, early in the school year CLCE community programmers contacted the previously involved schools and organizations, as well as any new contacts that had reached out to the CLCE.
“This year I am the lead and Linh is the co-lead,” Longacre said in reference to fellow CLCE community programmer Linh Lee, a senior majoring in public relations. This is Longacre’s first year working as a community programmer.
According to Longacre and Lee, a range of 25-75 individual gift tags were sent out to the participating schools. The school counselors then selected children to fill out the gift tags with their age and gender.
Longacre and Lee provided some gift ideas for the children and also ask the counselors to have the kids write down their clothing sizes, if applicable. The counselors then send the gift tags back to Longacre and Lee, who used the information to create the gift tags attached to the Giving Tree in the SURC.
Those who had decided to donate simply walk up to the Giving Tree and select one or more gift tags. Donors print their name, CWU email and the gift tag number on the sign-out sheet. Each gift tag lists gift wishes which donors can choose from. All donations are dropped off at the CLCE with the gift tag attached.
According to Longacre, gift tags represent one child in need. This year the Giving Tree had 617 tags total with only 80 tags left available as of Nov. 19.
“Every year we have an increased number of kids that would like to receive gifts,” Lee said. “Some of the schools, the kids, are not well-off, so when they receive the gifts, prepared by our students, they are really happy… I think it’s a really meaningful thing we are doing here.”
Gift tag wishes range from hats and gloves to iPads and PlayStations, according to Longacre. Depending on the child’s gift wishes, donors can choose what they want to purchase and how much they will spend. Donors can take as many gift tags as they’d like. Some of the donations Longacre has seen so far are nice, big winter coats.
“Some students take five tags at once,” Lee said. “It’s kind of amazing because when I wrote the tag, a lot of kids asked for fancy or expensive stuff, and I wouldn’t think college students would want to do that, but when you actually see students going down there and actually wanting to buy gifts for these kids … it’s really cool.”
The official cut-off date to turn in gifts for the event was Nov. 28. As a reminder to those who didn’t turn in their gifts to the CLCE, Longacre and Lee sent out a mass email at the beginning of the week before finals and will send out another at the end of the same week. On Dec. 3, the CLCE community programmer team personally gathers up all donations and delivers them to each school involved in the event.
“Getting to deliver them [to] see the kids, see you walking in with these bundles of bags under your arms, and the kids are like “oh my gosh,” Longacre said. “It definitely feels really good to be able to give back and participate in that.”
Last year’s Giving Tree had 512 gift tags to choose from. This year’s event saw an increase of 105 tags, for a total of 617. Having successfully donated all gift tags from last year’s event, Longacre and Lee are expecting the same result this year.
The CLCE also ran a similar program during November called Stocking Stuffers, and this program offers generic gift tags for K-6 children, according to Longacre. Stocking Stuffers catered to 50 boys and girls in case there were remaining gift tags after the Giving Tree cut off date—Stocking Stuffers worked as a way to provide gifts to the remaining children left on the tree.
Longacre said that if all Giving Tree gift tags are picked up for donations, the Stocking Stuffer gift tags get “evenly distributed between the schools” by the CLCE community programming team.
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