The Woodward News

December 6, 2012

Gift trees set up in community

Chris Cooper
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — During this season of giving, several organizations have set up gift trees around the Woodward community.

Just about anywhere you turn you'll find an opportunity to brighten a needy child's Christmas through gift programs sponsored by the Department of Human Services (DHS), Merciful Angels Outreach, and Western Plains Youth and Family Services.



WHERE GIFT TREES CAN BE FOUND

Cheryl Cook, administrative tech with Child Welfare Services, said, "DHS has gift trees set up at all the banks as well as the Elks Lodge."

Tom Brown is an administrator with Merciful Angels Outreach, a group that's been aiding the needy since 2003. Brown said, "We have a small tree at Atwoods again this year, as well as Browns, Sharpe's, and Competition Sports on Main Street. We've also got donation boxes set up at both United Supermarkets and Walmart where we'll accept new toys, clothes, and food donations."

Sarah McDowell, shelter director at Western Plains Youth, said "We have trees set up at Stage, Walls, Dr. Yadon's office, as well as the offices of Dr. Phillips, Dr. Tevebaugh, Dr. Hunter, Dr. Kirkendall, High Plains Technology Center, the Woodward Library, Northwestern Oklahoma State University campus, Cherlyn's Style Shoppe, and Choice Physical Therapy."



TOGETHER 3 AGENCIES TO HELP MORE THAN 300 CHILDREN

While there may seem to be an abundance of donation sites, there is also an abundance of need.

Cook said that DHS has around 64 children that benefit from its gift tree program, ranging in age anywhere from babies to teenagers. McDowell said Western Plains Youth and Family Services has another roughly 50 kids of all ages to provide gifts for.

Brown said the Merciful Angels are looking to help provide food and gifts to "nearly 245 school students" this Christmas who are classified as homeless.  This is for children whose families are not in their own homes, but may be living out of a hotel, staying with relatives, in a shelter, living in a home with multiple families, or some other transient type of living situation.

"We also try to make sure that when we take a food basket to family we're helping out that we give each child in that family 3 gifts," Brown said. "We always try to get each child 3 gifts, we never know if we'll be able meet that goal or not, but thats what we try to do."



THANKFUL FOR COMMUNITY SUPPORT

Providing these children with Christmas gifts is no small task, so all 3 organizations are appreciative of all those in the community who do their part to help.

"I'm proud of the banks and Elks Lodge for hosting our gift trees, as well as the community in general. Around this time of year they'll all start getting eager to help out. Everyone always responds to our cause so well," Cook said.

McDowell expressed similar appreciation, saying "Everyone's always very helpful."

Brown said in addition to the businesses hosting the gift trees, the local schools have also gotten involved to help in the effort.

"The Middle School will be lending a hand, wrapping gifts for the cause," he said. "And I'm fairly sure all 3 grade schools will be partnering to take up food gifts and clothing as they have in the past, and the high school usually takes up a monetary donation for us as well, so that helps out."



GENEROUS SHOPPERS NEEDED

However, Brown, McDowell and Cook said it is up to generous, kind-hearted members of the public to take the most important step and purchase gifts for the children.

That's why the 3 organizations have tried to make the gift donating process as seamless and hassle-free as possible through the use of gift trees.

Individuals can simply visit any of the aforementioned gift tree locations, and select an ornament off the tree which lists a child's gender and age, as well as an item the child would like to receive and possibly also a clothing size for the child.

Individuals then takes the child's information, buys a gift fitting the description, and returns it to the location of the tree for later collection by the appropriate agency.

In addition to being a simple process, Brown, Cook, and McDowell said the gift tree programs are an enjoyable and heartwarming experience.

"The gift drive is fun," Cook said. "It can get hectic towards Christmas, but I wouldn't trade it for anything; and the kids are always so appreciative."

McDowell cautions that without the public's help, some children might not even have a Christmas.

Brown echoed her sentiments, saying those who donate to the gift programs "ought to feel good giving to a child that won't have any Christmas otherwise. These are very needy children, and the families we take on are often single parents or grandparents raising grandchildren, but the main reason is to help a child have a Christmas."

The cut off deadlines for for the gift tree programs are quickly approaching. Those wanting to purchase gifts through either the DHS or Western Plains programs have only until Dec. 14 to drop off their donations.

However, the Merciful Angels' gift trees and donate