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Tree of Hope shows true community spirit | Letters
As human beings, every day we try to think of ways to put ourselves in another person’s shoes. How does it feel not having enough money to pay for rent, food or to keep the utilities on for one more day?
It’s difficult to imagine not having the basics on a daily basis, let alone during the holidays. These are everyday thoughts for many families in our community, which is why “Tree of Hope” was created.
When you are trying to figure out a way to keep the heat on for another month and a roof over your children’s heads, Christmas gifts are not even on your radar.
Soroptimist International of Oak Harbor held its annual “Tree of Hope” Christmas celebration for children on Saturday, Dec. 21. “Tree of Hope” started as a Venture Club project in 1987 and was adopted as a Soroptimist program in 2008. It was created so all children in our community would have special Christmas memories.
No one ever imagined how this project would evolve or how many children’s lives it would touch. It is now the largest service program on Whidbey Island and provided special Christmas memories for more than 16,000 children.
Each year, Tree of Hope gathers applications from qualifying individuals and distributes these names to community members, who then purchase and wrap gifts for an individual child or family. Gifts are collected, verified, and organized by volunteers, and distributed at the annual Tree of Hope Christmas Party.
Volunteers contribute approximately 1,500 hours of service each year to make it a memorable Christmas for every family.
Imagine for a moment that you are a child and you wake up on Christmas morning with very little to celebrate. Some of the children in our community are hoping to have just a little something, anything at all, for Christmas.
Although Christmas is not about the presents, it is the time when we create some of our most precious memories with family and friends. We have no idea what they may be going through and the recent economic downturn has compelled even more families to ask for help than ever before.
This is the main reason why Tree of Hope 2013 was our largest program ever with 425 families and over 950 children.
Each year we receive thank you cards and tearful hugs from parents who don’t have any more to give.
Without this program, many of them may not be able to provide anything for their children at Christmas.
Tree of Hope week would not be a reality if the Oak Harbor Church of Christ had not opened its doors to us for the past seven years.
What we used to do in only one night has turned into a week-long stream-lined work of beauty.
We absolutely couldn’t pull off a project of this magnitude without their continued generosity!
It was another fabulous year of Community participation and we would like to thank every business and individual who participated through sponsorship, wrapping, organizing donated presents or monetary donations.
Thanks to the generosity and support of our local community we are able to continue our mission “to improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment.”
The community spirit we see every year is why we love this service project. Thank you, Whidbey Island.
Rose Freitas and Cheri English
Soroptimist International of