‘Elves’ working hard for Project Giving Tree

Volunteer “elves” are hard at work in the Farragut community, ensuring as many local families as possible have a magical Christmas this year through Project Giving Tree.

Volunteers with the program, which this year is headed up by Farragut Middle School PTO member Leigh Anna Colgrove, currently are busy receiving new unwrapped donated gifts from members of the community.

More than 800 gift tags were distributed at Farragut Primary, Farragut Intermediate and FMS during the second week of November, for students and staff to chose and return by Wednesday, Dec. 5.

This year, the program is set to serve 72 families who, among them, have more than 200 children, Colgrove said.

Each child will receive clothing, a coat and two toys or other gifts through Project Giving Tree’s Monday, Dec. 17 shopping event at FMS. Parents will be able to receive new clothing, KARM coat vouchers and will select the toys themselves for their children.

“It is a wonderful way to serve our families, to let them choose,” Colgrove said. “We have found it to be more rewarding for them.

“We really do our best to have a good variety, and if we can meet specific needs, we do that,” she continued.

For example, a local food pantry donated grocery items last year, and Colgrove believes that will be an option this year, too.

“We do our best to try to care for the whole family as much as we can,” she said.

Parents then may elect to wrap their gifts or have volunteers provide that service.

Project Giving Tree was founded several years ago by Lisa Cole and Patti Webb, and is designed “to help families that might need a little help during the holidays,” Colgrove said.

“There are programs in place to help adopted children or foster children, but there was a need to help intact families where there isn’t a lot of outreach,” she added.

“Both (Cole and Webb) are due much credit for growing the program to its current form,” Colgrove continued. “I’m very grateful to be involved this year and help it keep moving forward. It’s a wonderful opportunity to serve and support one another through the holidays, but it’s really symbolic of how our Farragut school communities care for one another all year long.”

Colgrove said Cole has gone on to work with Faith Promise Church, which continues to partner with Project Giving Tree.

Each school has a Giving Team chair and co-chair, and additional Giving Tree team members who include Jessica Barksdale, Christy Davis, Beth Munk and Julie Rogers. Project Giving Tree is jointly administered through PTAs at FPS, FIS and FMS, Colgrove said.

The program works with Farragut schools’ social worker Jelena Browning to identify the families who will receive the gifts. While the families are identified through the three lower schools, if they have children in high school, those children also receive gifts.

Even though most of the gifts have been selected through the gift tag distributions, it is with the high schoolers that Colgrove said more help might be needed from the community. She said it is harder to find age-appropriate gifts that are commiserate in price to the donated toys.

“We can always use donated gift cards to give to those students,” she said.

Colgrove said gift cards also could help if some of the gift tags are overlooked or not returned.

Another key need is coats, she added. While KARM is working with Project Giving Tree, at one time private donors were able to provide new coats.

While that is no longer an option, Colgrove said she is hopeful a church or volunteer group might be able to ensure brand new coats, or even shoes, are available for the program’s children in the future.

Anyone wishing to donate gift cards to cover additional needs, or who might wish to help with the Dec. 17 shopping event, can contact farragutgivingtree@gmail.com.

Donations also may be taken to the school offices at FPS, FIS or FMS.