SPRINGVILLE — While many people are gearing up for the upcoming holiday season by setting up Christmas decorations, shopping for gifts and hanging out with Santa Claus, Trading Post CEO Linette Crelly said that she is creating an awareness about those families in the local community whose holidays may not be so cheerful.
The Trading Post’s eighth annual Christmas Giving Tree toy and stocking drive is currently underway. Crelly has asked local community members to lend a hand in bringing Christmas to local, low-income families.
Individuals are invited to donate new gifts, stuffed stockings, money or gift cards to one of the donation sites, around town. Bins may also be set up for gift drives at churches, schools or businesses.
“We need sponsors to get involved,” Crelly said. “If they are connected to a group, school or business, they could do a drive for us; wrap up a box and collect donations.”
New Christmas presents are now being accepted, for the drive. “If people really want to buy toys, we want to keep them between $10 and $25,” Crelly said, recommending that interested donors do a Google™ search for the top holiday toys, this season.
But, she added that, traditionally, parents attending the giving tree programs in the past have gravitated toward more practical Christmas gifts first, like twin bed sheets, underwear, pajamas, socks, coats and boots. “Those were things that went first, last year,” she said. “They are costly items, for families.”
Community groups like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts or youth groups often stuff stockings for the drive, as well. Stocking stuffers are asked to note whether stockings are for boys or girls and which age group they are appropriate for: infants; ages 2 – 4; ages 5 – 7; ages 8 – 11 or ages 12 – 15. Crelly said that the target audience is up to age 12, but that items received for older children will still be accepted and offered to appropriate families.
“This is the best part of my job,” Crelly said, of organizing the holiday drives. “We all need miracles, sometimes.”
Individuals are asked to bring their gifts to the Trading Post or donation bins, located at Beans to Brew Cafe, M&T Bank, Cattaraugus County Bank, the Concord Town Hall and My Best Friend’s Closet, by Dec. 12.
Crelly said that the drive, which originally involved participants’ “adopting” children for the holidays, has grown, to such an extent, that it was revamped, this year. “We are giving families the dignity factor, where we set up a store atmosphere,” she said.
The Christmas Giving Tree event will be held for local families the weekend of Dec. 15. “Parents need to register ahead of time, to be put into the system,” Crelly said. Because the Trading Post’s drive is part of Erie County’s Holiday Toy Partnership, parents must apply, in person, at the Trading Post and provide their children’s social security numbers, for quality assurance purposes. Registrations must be completed by Dec. 1. Families will be given more information about the event, including its location, when they register.
The giving tree program has income guidelines that designate eligible families. “Anyone who would qualify financially for food pantries would qualify for this,” Crelly said. “We need people – like school nurses and teachers and even people in churches – to be on the watch for families with true needs that typically don’t realize they’re eligible, and encourage them to apply.”
Participants will each be given an appointment time. “We have 15-minute time slots and we will assign five families, in each period, so it’s not tied up. It’s very organized,” Crelly said.
Presents donated to the giving tree program will be separated into age divisions, on the day of the event. “Depending on the family and the children’s ages and how many gifts we get, the parents can pick out X amount of gifts,” Crelly said. “They will actually get to shop. It gives them the dignity factor back. They know their child and what they would want. It comes from the sponsors, but it also empowers the parents ... to have presents under the tree on Christmas morning.”
In addition to refreshments, the giving tree event will also feature a wrapping station, where Trading Post volunteers will be available to wrap presents for parents.
“These gifts are a blessing from God and we are just the common ground, where we can receive those blessings and then give them back to the families and show God’s love, in that way,” Crelly said.
Community organizations or businesses that would like to host a donation drive are asked to let Crelly know, ahead of time. Volunteers are available to transport gifts to the Trading Post. “I am trying to reach out to the giving community,” Crelly said. “A lot of the suburban areas ... don’t realize the needs in the rural areas; they typically turn their chairs toward Buffalo. I’m trying to be that voice, saying, ‘If this is where your heart’s being pulled, we have a connection and can get these gifts to families who need them.’”
The Trading Post always accepts nonperishable food items, as well, especially during the holiday season and winter months. “We haven’t been this low, since we took the downturn in the economy in 2008,” Crelly said. “There’s just nothing available to order from the food bank.”
The Trading Post is giving back to its donors, with this year’s Holiday Heroes. Groups, offices or classrooms that donate 25 or more items, whether they be stuffed stockings, toys or gift cards, are noted on the Trading Post’s wall as holiday hero groups.
Each holiday hero will be entered into a drawing to win a free lunch, catered by the Trading Post community kitchen. “We really want to give back,” Crelly said.
To donate, set up a donation drive or find out more about registering for the giving tree program, contact the Trading Post at firstname.lastname@example.org
or 592-4455. The post is located at 38 Franklin St. in Springville.