Saratoga remains strong giving back to the community

December 7, 2022 — by Andy Zhu
Photo by Andy Zhu
What the Family Giving Tree warehouse looked like pre-covid.
Local fundraisers support families in need and create a sense of community.

Each year beginning in mid-November, the school participates in the annual Giving Tree drive, displaying a Christmas tree in the office with presents underneath, collected for children in need. This year, a tall Christmas tree stands in the lobby of the office, dazzling in brilliant Christmas lights. On it perches wishlist tags containing presents ranging from Barbie dolls to toy sets to soccer balls. In previous years, the drive has gathered over 300 presents. 

Family Giving Tree, a nonprofit organization that started in 1990, aims to “connect those who can give to those in need with educational support, gifts and volunteerism.” Every year they run drives during back-to-school and holiday periods, concentrated around the Christmas holidays.

During the holiday season, the presents arrive at regional warehouses in accordance with wishlists from children whose families do not have the financial means to provide gifts.

The organization provides ample volunteer opportunities including shopping for presents in the built-in shop, matching gifts with their wish list tags, wrapping each item, sorting gifts into groups and placing them in their corresponding places.

Activities director Kristen Cunningham said in addition to the drive, it would be a good idea to take a school field trip to the warehouses to volunteer as a group.

“When I went to deliver all of our presents, they were actually short- staffed, so I think it would be very beneficial to help out,” Cunningham said.

Outside in-house volunteering, outside groups are also encouraged to lead a drive. When leading a drive, a group is provided a wishlist with the goal to gather listed presents from their communities. These presents go to the built-in store inside the warehouse for donation to families. 

Saratoga has been hosting drives for over six years and noted that gifts come from the whole educational community. “What I love about this particular event is that we partner with the Saratoga Union School District, so it’s kind of nice too because it brings us together as a community,” Cunningham said.

In the past, drives were only available to be held in person, but when the pandemic occurred, Family Giving Tree created virtual drives. Virtual Giving Tree is a fundraiser to raise money for the organization to obtain the gifts on their wish lists.

Cunningham has a goal to grow this drive to become bigger and bigger, perhaps reaching as many as 500 donated gifts.

“I am super impressed with our student body, not only during this season but all the time because I feel the sentiment of our leadership students and students as a whole,” she said. “They just really want to give back.”

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