For nearly three decades, paper ornaments have represented the number of children in need in the Trafalgar area.
Since 1990, the Tree of Caring has been a tradition that allows local volunteers to make sure the children in their community have presents on Christmas morning. This year, more than 100 ornaments hang on the trees, and the organization needs volunteers to buy the gifts each ornament represents.
Organizers each year get recommendations from Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson schools on families that need help getting presents for Christmas. Each child has ornaments that list their age, gender, interests and clothing sizes. And volunteers pick ornaments off the tree, purchase the presents and bring them back to be delivered, Tree of Caring coordinator Beth Riedal said.
The program isn’t just focused on the children. Volunteers also shop for parents, because it gives the whole family an opportunity to celebrate Christmas together, she said.
Story continues below gallery
“It makes you cry when you think about it,” she said. “It makes the meaning of Christmas more than it normally would. You are helping someone that may not have anything if we didn’t help them.”
So far, sponsors are needed for about 30 families, but school officials have until Friday to turn in names, so that number could go up, Riedal said. If the group doesn’t get enough sponsors, they reach to local businesses and nonprofits for assistance, she said.
Other organizations in the county offer similar assistance, such as the United Way of Johnson County’s Christmas Angels program or Warrior Santa Cause, a fundraiser that provides gifts for students at Clark-Pleasant schools. When a family in Trafalgar contacts the United Way for help with Christmas presents, they often are directed to Tree of Caring, Riedal said.
The trees were set up last week, and will remain up through Dec. 14, which is the deadline for bringing back the presents so that they can be given to families before school is out for winter break, she said. A tree has traditionally been set up at The Place For Hair, a salon in Trafalgar, but this year a second tree was added at First Merchants Bank, to make the program more visible, she said.
In past years, they have hung one ornament per child, but the group wants to make sure each child gets multiple gifts — typically a toy and clothing — so they are putting up an ornament for each present, Riedal said. Their hope is to avoid scrambling at the last minute to make sure a child got enough presents, she said.
Clothing is an especially important gift, because of the pace that kids outgrow theirs, she said.
They also get presents for the parents as well, which lets everyone have something to open on Christmas Day, she said.
“We try to get them one thing,” Riedel said. “Kids like their parents to have something to open.”
For many of the adults who were asked what present they wanted for themselves, their responses include items of practical value, she said.
“I was just was talking to a lady; she wants groceries and laundry detergent, and it breaks your heart,” she said.
Susie Baker, a nurse at Indian Creek Schools, works to put together a list of kids and families that are in need of assistance for purchasing presents, Riedal said. They get in touch with the families, and get information about each of their kids and what types of presents might be good for them, she said.
Those receiving presents are kept anonymous. The only information on the ornaments is the gender, interests and clothing sizes of the child, Riedal said.
People purchasing the gifts should return them unwrapped to the two businesses, she said. The gifts are then delivered to the schools, which are responsible for getting them to the families.
The Tree of Caring has been providing Christmas presents for families in the Trafalgar area since 1990. To help, you can pick up ornaments off of trees at two businesses in Trafalgar, which will have information on a present you can purchase. The presents should be returned to the businesses by Dec. 14.
The Place for Hair, 100 State Road 135, Trafalgar
Monday: 8 a.m. to noon
Tuesday and Thursday: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Wednesday and Friday: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturday: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
First Merchants Bank, 110 State Road 135, Trafalgar
Monday – Thursday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. to noon