|By Chris Maza|
EAST LONGMEADOW – For more than a decade, the East Longmeadow Public Library has been using its Giving Tree to help brighten the holidays for needy children in Western Massachusetts and that work will continue on this year.
From Dec. 2 to 16, the Children’s Department at the library will be accepting donations of gifts for the children of families currently residing at A Family Place, a shelter located in Holyoke that aims to help families become self-sufficient and secure stable housing on their own.
“A Family Place serves homeless families from throughout the region,” Children’s Librarian Jennifer Kinder said. “The shelter has 33 families right now that they are providing shelter for. I don’t know how many children exactly, but I would estimate it would be somewhere around 100 children. The shelter serves homeless families from throughout the region.”
The children’s ages range from 2 to 18 years old.
Members of the public are encouraged to visit the tree and choose a paper ornament, which will have the age and gender of a child, as well as suggestions for appropriate gifts.
“We like to suggest toys because although clothing is, of course, necessary, we look at this as a special thing and they might not get a toy otherwise,” she said.
Retired Children’s Librarian Cindy MacNaught, who started the annual collection effort, said it all began when the library’s staff decided it wanted to “capture the spirit of Christmas for all people.”
She explained the goal was to have a far-reaching impact, which was why A Family Place, then under a different name, was chosen as the beneficiary.
“We were looking for a place that would serve not just East Longmeadow, but families who were in need, especially children, during this time when other children have so much and they have so little,” she said. “I wanted to find a place that would serve not just one community, but several communities and had an age range that we serve.”
Making the library’s Children’s Department, the host for the tree seemed like a perfect fit, she said.
“It’s important that children understand the importance of helping people out and the library is the ultimate sharing place,” she said.
Response from the community has been strong over the years and Kinder said she expected the same this year.
“People have already been asking about the tree,” she added.
While a good response from the town has brought its share of smiles to the library staff, MacNaught said it was the impact the gifts have had on the families to which they are given that makes it worth while.
“I once got a letter from a woman thanking us for the gifts and explaining that in the past, she’s only been able to tape a paper Christmas tree to the wall and most of the time had nothing to put under it, except maybe some fruit,” she recalled. “It’s seeing that you’re making that kind of an impact that is really heartwarming.”
For more information on the Giving Tree, visit the Children’s Department at the East Longmeadow Public Library or call Kinder at 525-5400, ext. 1505.
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