Tree of Sharing 2018 is sponsored by Thomas Hammer Coffee Roasters!
The collection and distribution of 8,000 holiday gifts for the often-forgotten members of our community is no easy feat. Starting November 23, head to one of the three shopping malls to fill a gift request and return it by December 17!
Spokane Valley mall
River Park Square
We all have our holiday traditions. Lights, check. Cocoa, check. Santa, double check.
But in Spokane there is a tradition all its own. The Tree of Sharing started in 1982 with a goal to serve the ‘often forgotten’ members of our community. It was a simple mission: Provide everyone in need with a holiday gift.
While the numbers have grown dramatically (8,000 gift requests this year) the mission has stayed the same. Provide a gift for someone who otherwise would go without. It was that simple mission that drove Joan & Carl McConnell to take on the Herculean task of running the tree. The mission and an overwhelming attachment to the holiday.
“He loved everything about Christmas,“says McConnell of her husband Carl.
It was Carl who a few years ago that wanted to take over the reins of the Tree of Sharing. He was retired and felt able to support the longtime event. He had spent years working at Spokane Mental Health and knew that the tree could have an impact on people. He knew that a simple gift could provide a little holiday spirit to someone who felt forgotten. He looked to his wife Joan for support.
“He’s loved the program. He loved doing it," says McConnell. So, the two worked in tandem to provide a holiday treat for people of all ages. The Tree of Sharing (a 501c3 nonprofit) works with nearly 60 agencies to coordinate the gift giving. People are asked to write down a gift wish and submit it to the ‘tree.’ Shoppers at area malls fill that request and return the gifts. The coordination is a massive effort that the two McConnells spent months planning.
Then, in December of last year, Carl passed away. The man who loved the Tree of Sharing and the holiday was gone. His wife Joan was left with the choice - to either run the tree herself or step down. She made a choice that Carl would certainly have loved.
“This year is kind of a legacy year,” says McConnell.
Over the next few weeks McConnell and a team of volunteers hope to provide gifts to each person who made a request. It could be a doll for a child, a gift card for a teen, or a warm blanket for an elderly person. It doesn’t really matter. For McConnell, it’s about making sure that everyone feels included in the holiday.
“That telephone never stops ringing with people saying how do I get my kids on Tree of Sharing,” says McConnell. “The need is so great in our community.”
McConnell hopes that this year, as part of your tradition, you will include the Tree of Sharing. For her, it honors not only the legacy of her husband but the joy of the holiday, the spirit of Spokane, and shows the ‘often forgotten’ that they are indeed remembered.
Tree of Sharing. It’s happening at these area malls until December 17th.
RiverPark Square: NorthTown Mall: Spokane Valley Mall