Each year with the advent of the holiday season, Megan Taylor hears stories of families who are in need of help for Christmas from the Gift Tree program.
Taylor, who is executive director of Interfaith Caregivers and oversees the Gift Tree program, announced the annual program will help more than 70 families in need of help for Christmas 2018.
A list of Gift Tree families and their wishes for presents and other items appears in today’s edition of the Olean Times Herald, which co-sponsors the program.
"As with each year, there were touching stories attached to some applications” for Gift Tree, Taylor said. “Job loss, a family medical emergency, tragedy, working families who struggle to make ends meet — people are in need in our area. Needs like basics for winter warmth, basics like fresh bedding, toys for a child to learn — the community has repeatedly shown they want to meet those needs and we are eager for Gift Tree to kick off this week.”
Taylor said local human service agencies referred families and single adults to the Gift Tree program this year. Of that, 73 families of various sizes were selected to be part of the community gift giving program.
“We had over 100 applications, but felt comfortable going with 73 families based on last year’s numbers and community response,” Taylor explained. “Families in the program this year were not previously served by the Gift Tree program last year or in the last three to four years.”
She recalled that last year all 75 families were adopted within the first week of publication in Times Herald.
Taylor said referring agencies included, but were not limited to Catholic Charities, Cattaraugus Community Action, Cattaraugus Head Start, Cattaraugus Department of the Aging/New York Connects, Olean Food Pantry and Person Centered Services, among others.
"It's fun to get the phone calls from previous supporters and to connect with newcomers excited to make Christmas special for someone,” she continued. “It feels good seeing people working together and enjoying themselves while helping others."
Julie Keim, Times Herald coordinator for the program, said she is certain the program will do as well with adoptions as in previous years.
“I’ve already gotten calls from (large organizations and community leaders) about Gift Tree so people are anxious,” Keim remarked.
Others who have stepped forward to help include local residents, churches, schools and businesses. Keim said the list of Gift Tree recipients is also scheduled to be published in the Times Herald Nov. 13, 20 and 27, unless all are adopted prior to these dates.
Taylor reminds area residents that the collection and distribution of gifts have been moved from Olean to the Robert H. Livingston Community Center at 188 W. Main St. in Allegany.
Taylor said the gift drop-off day will be held from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 6 at the community center, and the agency gift pick-up day for delivery to families will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Dec. 7 in the same location. Agencies will be assigned pick-up times at a later date.
Taylor also noted that people can make monetary donations to the Gift Tree program, as well. Online donations can be made at www.interfaithcaregiversinc.org or by mail to: Interfaith Caregivers, Gift Tree Program, PO Box 319, Olean, NY 14760.
“Donating to the fund allows us to shop for families that may not be adopted by the public,” Taylor said. “We will then send a volunteer shopper out to shop for the family.
“We may also choose to help an additional family that was not originally accepted to the program or choose to help a family if struck with an emergency during the holiday,” she concluded.
(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)