Last year the program helped 225 families with about 900 children and this year they are helping even more. With total families close to 250, the group has depended more than ever on financial donations from families and local businesses. They have gotten that support and more from sources such as Dixie Chopper, DePauw University, Greencastle Christian Church and many other businesses and groups.
Terry Bruner, Ruth Myers, Misti Scott, Jennifer Jackson and Vicki O'Hare, have organized the program for several years now and appreciate the help they receive each year to do it. Some of the biggest help comes from the local schools such as Greencastle Middle School and North and South Putnam schools.
The foundation accepts applications to receive the gifts at the schools. Parents write the applications and turn them in to counselors and teachers. The foundation looks at the applications and chooses who most deserve it based on need. Each child will then choose three gifts, with each gift costing no more than $20. Families are assigned a number and kept anonymous as the gifts are sorted, packaged and later given to the families that need them. The families also receive a roll of wrapping paper.
The Giving Tree members do whatever they can to get the exact gift that each family asks for, and they shop at stores in town and in nearby cities such as Plainfield. Families can also receive care packages with essential items in them.
"Sometimes they talk to the family and make that connection and we give it to them," Bruner said.
While there are a lot of toys, the majority of gifts tend to be clothing items and other necessities.
The Giving Tree members always ask if the families want anything else aside from the presents. They know some of the people in the program do not have water or electricity. Some do not even have homes. But oftentimes, the families are not very greedy. All they claim to need is a few wrapped presents under the Christmas tree.
"That's the best part: when they come to pick them up and you can tell you helped the family," said Terry Bruner.