With the season of giving in full swing, a new opportunity to ensure local Williston families have a wonderful holiday is unfolding.
Thrivent Financial started its inaugural “Giving Tree” program this year, and it’s similar to the Salvation Army’s Angel Trees.
There are three Christmas trees set up in three different Williston locations, and on those trees are tags with information on what to get a boy or girl for Christmas.
That information includes the child’s age, their clothing size, their shoe size and what they have on their wish list like toys, clothes, shoes or games. There’s also a code on the back of the tag which is needed when dropping off the gifts. The tags are anonymous.
Rachel Linn and Kristin Iverson, financial advisors at Thrivent, said they have over 200 tags, meaning they have over 200 children from as young as a few months to as old as 18.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” Linn said. “Getting 200 kids registered was both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time just knowing that we have that many local families in need.”
Linn also said that the amount of children registered is what truly made them want to have a successful program this year so they can continue next year.
The idea to start the Giving Tree program was inspired by Angel Trees, and at first Linn said they wanted to partner with the Salvation Army to do just that.
However, she said after not being able to find information on how to do that, they decided to start their own program.
And so far, she said, there’s been great feedback.
“We partnered with Head Start and then the school district(s)...so we have over 200 kids that are registered,” Linn said. “We learned a few things with this being our first year, but we will definitely be doing this next year and making it bigger and better.”
Iverson said the Giving Trees are an opportunity not only for children to have a great Christmas and receive things they need but also an opportunity for people who genuinely want to help.
“One of our company’s core values is living lives in generosity,” Iverson said. “So it’s really neat for us to do something that is not only significant to us because it’s something that we believe in, but it’s a way to incorporate the company’s motto.”
The trees are set up at River’s Edge Bar and Grill (located 1002 2nd ST W) Walt’s Market (located at 922 University Ave.) and Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative (located at 218 58th St W, Williston).
People have from now until Dec. 15 to take a tag or a few from the trees, purchase one or more of the items on the wish list (or other age-appropriate gifts) and return those items to Thrivent Financial (located at 54 25th St E Suite C).
The guidelines for the gift buying are:
1. Gifts must be dropped off by 4 p.m. on Dec. 15
2. Gifts must be new and NOT wrapped.
3. Gifts must accompany the code listed on the back of the tag.
4. You may buy anything listed or may choose to substitute other age-appropriate gifts. You may buy more than one gift.
On top of the Giving Tree opportunity, Thrivent is also hosting a food and hygiene drive the same week the gifts are due back at the office (Dec. 13 through Dec. 17).
Linn and Iverson said in the event that people want to give extra or if the tags run out they can still help out by dropping off food or hygiene products at the office. In turn, they will donate those items to the local family crisis shelter.
Iverson said overall, it’s a blessing to be able to give and help families and one of their overall goals is to be able to have every single one of the tags picked up by the community.
“We want to make sure families are taken care of,” Iverson said.
Linn said another goal is to make sure they have a successful year so they can take notes and continue the program for years to come and possibly expand the program through other Thrivent locations state-wide.
She also said they are hoping people remember to shop local when shopping for the gifts in order to keep the dollars here in town.