Some of us take for granted the ease of filling a shopping cart with games, movies, scarves and other tokens to give to family and friends for the holidays. However, there are many families that are unable to afford even the basic necessities, especially during the cold winter months when costly utilities make the top of the list.
Christmas is a season for sharing. And, just as the Giving Tree in Shel Silverstein’s children’s book of the same name depicts the ultimate self-sacrifice, so do the Giving Trees set up around Madison County this year for those who cannot afford to buy presents to put under their own Christmas tree.
To help out families this Christmas Season, there are several places that have Giving Trees. The trees are set up with tags on them, hanging like ornaments that simply say ‘boy’ or ‘girl’, an age, and what someone may need, or want, for this Christmas Holiday.
The First Madison Valley Bank in Ennis has a Giving Tree standing in their lobby. Andrea Noack, a customer service representative at the bank, is going on her fourth year taking charge of the program, but the bank itself has been involved for well over 20 years.
“When I was little, a program like this helped my family out,” Noack recalls. “It was one of the best Christmas’s I had.”
Families sign up to place their wishes on the tree by going into First Madison Valley Bank or calling Noack. There is no income check and the bank does not make them prove they need this help. Everything is kept confidential.
Anyone from the community is welcome to purchase gifts for the children. Simply stop by and claim a tag and purchase a gift appropriate for that child’s age and gender. The wrapped gifts are brought back to the bank and remain under the tree until the family comes to pick them up. On average, the tree at First Madison Valley Bank helps about 16 families per year.
“I believe this program benefits everyone involved,” says Noack. “The people who buy the presents, because they know someone needs to have a little Christmas miracle, and they know they provided that. The children, because this makes them have hope and lets them continue to believe Santa still exists. The parents, because they know that while times are hard for them, their children will not be affected at least on Christmas. I think this program brings the community together to show help will be there no matter what.”
Last year, The Madison Valley Woman’s Club made a cash donation to help out with the tree. According to Noack, without that donation, the tree would have come up short and wishes would not have been fulfilled. This year, the Corral Creek Coffee Company is participating with a raffle. The prize is free drip coffee for one year, and the proceeds go to the Giving Tree.
The Twin Bridges National Honor Society also puts up a tree at the Ruby Valley Bank, Twin Bridges Branch. Jody Sandru, Advisor for the NHS, has been in charge of that tree since 1998.
“I was eager to find a community service project for the National Honor Society,” she says, “and the Giving Tree was the perfect opportunity to teach students the joy of giving and serving others in need.”
Sandru says they average about 40 tags per year. Not only do the students gain important volunteer hours necessary to stay in the program, they get to help out children who either live in Twin Bridges or attend their school.
The program has certainly made an impact on the community as well as the students.
“After participating, many of my NHS alumni take tags off the Tree and continue to give long after they have graduated,” notes Sandru. “This speaks for the effect this project has on the students.”
Sandru and the students take in names with age, size and needs, all in confidence. And similar to the Tree at First Madison Valley Bank, the gifts are wrapped and placed under the tree until the family comes to pick them up. They also accept cash donations for anyone without the time to shop for gifts, but with the desire to help out.
“My heart is filled with joy every year when we witness the generosity of folks in our little town,” comments Sandru. “Yes, there is a Santa Claus. He lives in the hearts of many people in our community. It makes me proud to live in Twin Bridges.”
The generosity does not stop with Twin Bridges and Ennis. A Giving Tree also stands at the Sheridan branch of the Ruby Valley Bank and the program resembles that in the other locations. Simply claim a tag, return a wrapped gift to the Giving Tree and enjoy the warm fuzzies that result from your efforts.
Madison County certainly exudes the meaning of giving during the Holiday Season. Anyone interested in adopting a family or child for the holidays should visit their local bank branch.