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Sharing trees collect gifts for residents

Community efforts will deliver presents this week

— Community help is needed with a pair of projects to help provide Christmas gifts to local residents in need.

Plenty of Christmas wish tags remain on both the Okanogan Valley Soroptimist Club’s Sharing Tree and The Chronicle’s Tree of Giving.

“It seems like every year it gets more” tags, translating to more children in need, Soroptimist member B.J. Bleakney said.

The Soroptimist Sharing Tree, in its 28th year, benefits children served by the state Department of Social and Health Services. The tree is at North Cascades Bank, 721 Okoma Drive.

The Tree of Giving, a project of The Chronicle to benefit the Support Center’s shelter, is set up in the newspaper’s office at 618 Okoma Drive.

In both cases, potential recipients have provided their Christmas wish lists in hopes of getting at least one item on the three-item list.

Recipients’ names remain anonymous; organizers say there is no duplication between the trees. A donor can take a tag, buy one or more gift on the wish list, and return the gift and tag to the appropriate tree.

The deadline for the Soroptimist Sharing Tree is Monday. The Chronicle’s Tree of Giving deadline is Thursday.

Both trees had plenty of tags remaining on them as of Friday.

Although money is tight for many people, Bleakney said she’s confident the community will come through again.

“Whatever people can give is very helpful,” she said. “I have no doubt people will give. People are so giving and caring.”

The Soroptimist program has a “huge impact” for the recipients, who include children in families who are struggling and may have exhausted their state benefits eligibility and children in foster care, said Susan Danielson, supervisor of the Omak office of state Child Protective Services.

“In many cases, these are the only gifts they get,” she said.

In the case of foster children, the state reimburses foster parents for care, but has no money for extras such as holiday gifts.

The Sharing Tree gifts go all over the county and, in some cases, to county children who have been placed in other areas, she said.

The recipients, who are selected by Child Protective Services workers based on known need, are very appreciative and often contact her office to express their thanks, Danielson said, adding that it’s too bad the gifts’ donors don’t get to experience the gratitude first hand.

More than 300 children’s wish lists were on the tree when it went up just before Thanksgiving. As of Thursday, about 60 tags remained on the tree, Bleakney said.

Although each tag contains three wished-for items, Bleakney said donors aren’t obligated to provide all three. The requests often are for practical things, such as towels or a blanket, or for gifts for younger siblings.

Similarly, many of the wishes on the Chronicle Tree of Giving are for practical items.

“Most people were asking for essential items – kitchen utensils, clothing, hair brushes, shampoo/conditioner, gloves, etc.,” Chronicle Advertising Manager Lynn Hoover said.

As of Friday, about a dozen tags remained on the tree out of 28 there originally.

The tags bear the Christmas wishes of children, women and a few men served by the Support Center, 619 S. Second Ave., Okanogan.

The center serves victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes. Its shelter is in Omak.

All of those with tags on the Tree of Giving are current Support Center clients, meaning they are victims of crime, and are low income, Support Center Financial Manager Tanya Bunting said. All the shelter residents have tags on the tree, as to other clients who are staying temporarily with friends or family. For people who flee to the center in the final couple days before Christmas, the center attempts to pull together last-minute gifts, Bunting said.

A few gift items are kept on hand, and the center also puts out calls for help through its Facebook page, she said. Sometimes the center’s staff provides gifts.

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