Growing cheer – Giving trees provide much needed support to families around the county

One of the most well known symbols of giving during the holidays in Madison County can be found at your local bank.

This time of year, giving trees sprout up in bank lobbies around the county and provide an important connection between people who want to spread a little holiday cheer and the people who need it the most.

“I think programs like this are important because at Christmas time especially you have people who have a need just for that time of year,” said Tom Luksha, who along with his wife Sheri and one other volunteer, organize the Ruby Valley Giving Tree, which is located at Ruby Valley National Bank in Sheridan.

“There’s a lot of people today who live one paycheck away from losing everything,” Luksha said. “Those are situations where we feel we can step in and help and do it in a way that does not hurt anyone’s feelings.”

Giving trees around the county are decorated with tags for a child or a family, or even a senior in the community. A person or family can pick a tag off the tree and purchase a gift for the person on the tag.

Giving tree operations around the county are wrapping things up this week, both literally and figuratively. The goal is to get folks their gifts by early next week.

Luksha’s is seeing about the same amount of need with the Ruby Valley program, but in both Twin Bridges and Ennis, the giving tree programs are experiencing increases.

In Twin Bridges, the need in the community has stayed about the same the past few years, said organizer Jody Sandru, who is also a teacher at Twin Bridges High School. However, this year the number of people who are able to step forward and help has seemed to drop off.

“I think what’s happened this year is there’s way more tags not taken,” Sandru said.

On Tuesday, the Twin Bridges tree, which is located in the Ruby Valley National Bank, still had 14 tags on it, she said.

“The needs still the same here, but we’re not getting the people who can take the extra tag,” Sandru said.

On Thursday, she’ll take all the remaining tags off the tree and spend the weekend shopping for items to fill the tags. The National Honor Society students at the Twin Bridges High School help her in the effort.

She likes to focus on needs of the people who are in a position of need, Sandru said.

“We do a lot of warm clothing, hats and gloves,” she said. “Practical stuff – shoes, boots and socks too.”

This year the Twin Bridges tree will serve about 40 children. All the gifts will be wrapped and delivered on Dec. 21.

In Ennis, the need from families around the community has nearly doubled in the last couple of years, said Andrea Noack, who organizes the giving tree at First Madison Valley Bank.

Three years ago, 10 families signed up with Noack. This year she’s had 18 families participate. In all, 43 children will be receiving Christmas presents by way of the bank’s giving tree, Noack said.

But as the need in the community has increased, so has the support, she said.

“People are seeing that there’s more need and they’re pulling together the resources to help them out,” she said.

In Ennis, Valley Bank also had a giving tree this year to collect presents for residents at Madison Valley Manor. The gifts were brought to the
manor on Monday.

Like Sandru, Noack will start buying presents for unfilled tags over the weekend. This year she is also going to get food-only gift certificates for families in the program.

The resources to support programs like the giving tree essentially come through community donations. These are particularly important when it comes to buying items for unfilled tags and to purchase a few remaining items.

And though it’s a scramble every year, it all seems to come together, Luksha said.

“We back fill in where we need to and we just ask the Lord to provide the money for it and He always does,” he said. “It just amazes me how all the needs are met every year and if it doesn’t get met it’s because people don’t tell us about it.”

To help with the Twin Bridges program, contact Sandru at the Twin Bridges High School, 684-5656.

To help with the Ennis program, call Noack at First Madison Valley Bank, 682-4215. She’s in particular need for volunteers for gift wrapping next Wednesday.

To help with the Sheridan program, can call Grace Community Fellowship at 842-5915.

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