Daily Journal Staff Writer

After telling a volunteer about what kinds of Christmas presents her grandchildren would enjoy, a Trafalgar-area woman was reluctant to share any personal needs.

The woman’s grandchildren had been recommended as recipients of The Tree of Caring, a yearly charity drive in which residents of the Indian Creek school district anonymously buy Christmas presents for needy children and their caregivers. As part of the project, volunteers contact the parents or grandparents to find out specific toys on the wish list or clothing sizes, so the people donating the items will know what to buy.

The woman was reluctant to ask for anything for herself and in the end would mention only pots, pans and cleaning supplies as needs, organizer Teresa Waltz said.

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Waltz was moved by the selflessness of the woman to raise her grandchildren and to ask only for things that would help her take care of them. But the request was not an unusual situation to Waltz, who has been overseeing The Tree of Caring for seven years with her friend Pat Griswold.

The idea of people sponsoring children or adults to buy Christmas gifts is not unique, even in Johnson County, but The Tree of Caring is specifically for residents of Nineveh and Hensley townships in the southwestern part of the county and Jackson Township in Morgan County. The three townships make up the school district.

“We don’t ask for help outside the community. Our community is not a rich community, but it still gives generously,” Waltz said.

The Tree of Caring was started by area resident Sandy Adams in 1994. At first the aid went to fewer than 10 senior citizens. But the project grew to include whole families and now about 30 families, comprising more than 150 people, receive gifts every year, Waltz said. School and 4-H groups donate fruit and stocking-stuffers.

Sponsors get matched with a needy child or family by pulling profiles off a tree set up at The Place for Hair, a Trafalgar beauty salon. The gingerbread-man shaped profile will give the ages, size and requests for presents of each child and adult. Sponsors never know the identity of the people they are helping.

Waltz, Griswold and other volunteers spend hours each year taking the information provided from the Indian Creek school nurses and the families themselves and dividing them into profiles that area residents can select for sponsorship. They sort through the requests in order to eliminate excessive items such as iPads and cellphones, then hang the profiles to the tree.

As people pull the paper profiles off the tree, Waltz and her crew of elves will replace them with more. If anyone is not selected by mid-December, the volunteers dip into some reserve funds to make sure everyone chosen receives presents. Cash donations are accepted.

Customers at the salon sponsor some of the families, but other area residents walk into the lobby just to get a name or names, said Tina Brehob, a manager at The Place for Hair.

Sponsors purchase gifts and return them to the salon. Waltz and her elves deliver the presents to the parents of each family, allowing them to wrap the items themselves and present them to the children as gifts from them.

“This is a community that cares about people. The children love shopping for other children, and the adults want to do what they can to help others through difficult times. We get to see the people who are receiving the gifts, but everyone who sponsors should know they are making a difference in somebody’s Christmas,” Waltz said.

How To Help

If you would like to sponsor a family, you can select a wish list at The Place For Hair, 100 State Road 135, Trafalgar, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

You also can donate directly by writing a check to the Johnson County Community Foundation (include The Tree of Caring Fund in the memo) and mailing it to Teresa Waltz, 275 E. County Road 600S, Trafalgar, IN 46181.

Call Waltz with any questions at 933-3755.

Pull Quote

“We don’t ask for help outside the community. Our community is not a rich community, but it still gives generously.”

Organizer Teresa Waltz, on The Tree of Caring campaign