By Christine Mundy
With the holidays drawing near, it is always important to remember those less fortunate. Here’s an awesome opportunity to do just that. Right here on campus, Franciscan Giving Trees are set up with gift tags each representing a Christmas wish.
The Campus Ministry started the Giving Tree project about fifteen years ago, and since then, the Siena community has been extremely generous in providing gifts and Christmas cheer to local families. A little over nine years ago, The Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy took over the project and Project Giving Tree is thriving- thanks to the continued support of Siena students and community members.
The Franciscan Giving Tree currently helps 20 local social service agencies in the Capital District. According to Judy Dougherty, Assistant Director, the Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy, explains that the Giving Tree currently helps “homeless shelters to children’s centers to nursing homes to different Catholic Charities services – such as children with disabilities to people suffering from AIDS.”
The Franciscan Giving Tree project gets a lot of help from The Volunteer Ministry Association (a student club who regularly volunteer their time) when it comes to putting up the trees, and adorning them with the different gift tags. They also help in purchasing last minute gifts towards the end of the semester to ensure that the project can help spread as much good as possible. They also assist in sorting the gifts once they arrive and running the entire process behind the scenes. Dougherty claims, “It is a lot of fun but can get hectic as over 1,000 gifts start coming in and need to be organized!”
Last year due to the generosity of the Siena community, our Giving Trees were able to bring in 1500 gifts! Dougherty predicts, “This year should be another record setting year as the need and the requests have increased over last year.” There are three Giving trees set up this year for your convenience; one in Serazen Student Union, one in Foy Hall and one in the Chaplain’s office. By simply picking a card and buying the corresponding gift, you are helping to bring a smile to kids and adults in the Albany area.
Different sectors in the Siena Community make a group effort to get involved with The Giving Trees. Besides individuals who pick cards, student clubs, and many of the offices on campus “Adopt” local families or choose several cards therefore incrementally increasing the number of gifts, which end up under the trees. All of the athletic teams on campus as well participate by getting gifts for a local family. The community-feel and the Franciscan nature of the Siena campus makes it a great place for a program like The Giving Tree. It’s not only the current students who participate in this generous act- alumni contact Judy annually to contribute to the efforts of The Giving Tree. Even one former employee of the college picks up twenty or so cards and has her new office participate.
In regards to the turn around rate of the gift cards, Judy happily reports that almost all of the cards are returned with gifts attached. Although the huge demand leads to a few cards remaining at the end of the project, the Siena community is “always very generous and most of the cards are returned”.
Don’t forget, the Giving Trees have recently been restocked! You can find a fresh batch of gift tags adorning the trees. The directions are simple and the payoff is the indescribable feeling of bringing some Christmas to those less fortunate.