7 Years Ago this little Giving Tree began, and I wrote about it a few times, Here and Here. But the story now and how it’s grown, that’s where the BMSN Giving Tree is really shining and community building. I wanted to share a bit about how it falls together each year, especially; This Year. Our biggest year, 311 kid’s.
10 Mamas all come together and somehow, and with using each of our strengths, it always works out. But every year, about ten day’s away from the final gift drop-off date, it always looks like it won’t work out. There won’t be enough. And we start to really call out to our community.
And every year, in one magical way or another, community shows up.
It starts in October, when the sign-up’s begin. Merrilee, Anna, Jasmine, and Colleen are the organizational masters. Merrilee designed an incredible and streamlined process (all through google) and we watch as the spots we have fill up in minutes after they open the form. Then everyone (usually except me because I’m a tech-slacker who is terrible at anything organized) begins to comb the list for errors, missing information, double checking kiddos/mamas/information. Esme, Alison, Jessi, Ashley and Sara always having a mind blowing memory for kiddos needs and wants, a little thing they remember the Mama mentioning in a Facebook post, and who we should check in about again to see if they might need help with a meal, or gas cards this time of year too.
All of these women hold it all in their heads and mind-blowingly empathetic hearts. These tags aren’t age/gender/need, they’re us connecting to what we know our own children might want this Holiday season. And feeling incapable of reading these kiddos needs without realizing how overwhelmingly met our own needs are.
And then there is a lull, November comes. And the holidays begin, and suddenly? It’s tag making time.
The tags are printed and as many of us as can make it all get together in one spot to hole punch, thread, knot and double check each tag. Again going over the kiddos wants and needs, noticing what child loves the same things ours do. And that so many kiddos just want so little. Or their need is a haircut. A crib mattress. Diapers. Their wants? The same my kiddos wants. A shopkins. Baby Doll. Lego.
Then we start talking with our tree locations. We have had the same home-base tree for all seven years. The Black Drop Coffee Shop and Stephanie their incredible owner. This shop goes above and beyond to advertise, encourage their patrons to take tags, use their Social Media to share, and take (and match!) donations. Stephanie is a student, baker for her shop, business owner, mama, and incredible woman balancing SO much. And yet? She always finds time to help us balance this. Giving SO much back to our community.
The past few years we have had two other incredibly successful tree’s at Pure Bliss Cakes and Hoaglands Pharmacy. Both are so engaged, helpful, and beginning to be a huge part of our Giving Tree tradition. Also? Being able to snag cake or the towns cheapest Beanie Boo’s (don’t know what those are? count yourself lucky.) when I go to pick up gifts or snag tags? Perfection. Each year we streamline more, figure out what works best for our community, and are blown away by the way these shops have worked with us to make this tree a success.
Once we have the tree’s confirmed, Thanksgiving comes and goes, and we’re ready to set up! We set up the tree’s, hang the tags, and start to cross our fingers and post obsessively on our FB and IG page for the BMSN Giving Tree.
And this year. . .our biggest year yet, with 311 kids. The tags were slow to move.
And I started to freak out.
And then? As they always do. The gifts began to pour in. It’s always this way, always takes till the very end. Each year community shows up in new ways.
The past two years we’ve expanded, and needed help. So last year we began to accept PayPal donations, and we made it. This year, we’ve expanded further, and it looked like we may be having many (many) children’s tags still hanging on the tree come the very end. So? We took to social media, and my eyes were opened again that community isn’t just in a 10 miles radius. Community is where you reach and others put their hands right out to lift you up. We reached out, and within hours 30 more tags had been taken digitally (and counting!)
Then we begin to organize. Each present gets sorted through, double checked, and lined up. We set up the bags by family, making sure that each child gets a bag that is relatively ‘even’ with their sibling, and we take great care to make sure that at very least a thoughtful want and need are covered. We prioritize warm and water proof clothing, but never leave a child without a gift we know our own children would be excited to receive.
Again we come to the very end and my heart is racing, the gifts are still slowing coming back in, and my friends and I are all exchanging encouraging (and worried) texts and Charlie is randomly hugging me every time we’re together, “it’ll work out” he whispers, each time.
And it will. Because community is immense, expanding, and capable.
The final step is the Pick-Up Day. Where all of these 10 Mamas who have worked together online for the past several months making this come together all meet. Hugging tight, organizing our lists for check-off, corralling our kiddos in a room full of presents, and drinking more coffee than is probably healthy.
And then it ends. With families and Mama’s trickling in for hours on hours. Tight hugs, familiar hand-shakes, and lots of help loading cars. And more than that, trembling chins, tight smiles, and tears. From all of us. Because no one can quite fathom how our small town and expanding community of givers just showed up… again. Arriving and seeing these rows of lovingly chosen, sent, bought, dropped off, presents is overwhelming.
Right now we’re in the still waiting time. The frantic texts. Happy tears at all the digital tags and donations coming in. And fingers crossed tight that it all happens. On this, the biggest year yet.
If you’d like to help your donations go a LONG way. They go towards unreturned tags, untaken tags, and tags that come back light (last year we shopped for roughly 18 tags). Any extra goes towards hygiene products, grocery money, and savings for next year and hopefully doing this all over again.
You can donate via PayPal HERE. And we will put the money towards making this season a little brighter for a family in need.
Thank you SO much for all of you support, all the people who have come together to take care of a child they don’t know. And so generously supported our BMSN Giving Tree, and these sweet families.
I promise to squeeze those Mamas extra hard for you on pick up day.
Thank you so much to Toyota and Drive Shop for sending us over a BIG car for this week of hauling gifts all over town! We’ve been driving a Toyota 2017 Highlander and it’s been a serous work horse as I fill it up again and again to the gills! My kiddos, dog, school stuff, and presents for 20+ have been fitting no problem!
Also? we’ve been blasting Christmas music all around town as we feel a bit like we’re riding in Santa’s sleigh full to the brim with toys!