OLEAN — Organizers of the annual Gift Tree program are reminding the community that the time is here to submit applications for families and individuals in need of help this holiday season.
Julie Hall, executive director of Interfaith Caregivers, and Capt. Megan Moretz, of The Salvation Army, are again gearing up to accept applications and determine how many families will receive Christmas presents this holiday season.
The annual program, which is co-sponsored by the Olean Times Herald, coordinates with area businesses, schools, organizations and residents to provide holiday gifts for families and individuals they “adopt” in Cattaraugus County.
Hall said they began working on Gift Tree by mid-summer and preparations are going well. They met with reps from gift-giving programs from across the county and established open and meaningful conversations among the entire group, she said.
“All materials have been updated, prepared and printed and we are ready to kick off our application process,” she said on Thursday.
Applications are open now through Oct. 20. Anyone living in Cattaraugus County and whose household income meets the New York State HEAP guidelines can apply. The program serves families, disabled adults, veterans and senior citizens.
Anyone wanting to apply can do so by calling Interfaith Caregivers at (716) 372-6283 or The Salvation Army at (716) 372-6740.
“We are very thankful to be returning to the Creekside Chapel on Five Mile Road in Allegany for headquarters again this year,” Hall said, noting it will be the place for drop-offs and pick-ups. “It will be our third year at this location.”
Gift Tree has chosen the theme of “Gratitude” for 2023. Receiving participants will be asked to show their gratitude through either a written thank you note or a video clip to be delivered to the sponsoring community members, Hall explained.
“We are asking that gifts be dropped off on either Dec. 5 or 6,” Moretz said. “Participants will be able to pick up their gifts on Dec. 8.”
After collaborating with The Salvation Army for the first time in 2022, Hall said it was a natural fit for Interfaith Caregivers. She said both organizations serve similar populations, and they work very well together in a fully collaborative manner.
Captain Moretz agreed, saying it has been a privilege to partner with the Gift Tree program.
“By pooling our resources with Interfaith Caregivers, we are able to have a greater impact,” she said. “We support each other. Going into our second year together, I feel more prepared. We are ready to meet the holiday needs of the community this season.”
In addition to its organizers, volunteers are always welcome and needed. Hall said they always need volunteer shoppers, extra hands at headquarters to sort and load and other odd jobs. If a person is interested in volunteering they can contact either organization.
“We are expecting a large pool of applicants requesting to be on our list of receiving individuals and families,” she added.
Donations are much appreciated and can be mailed to Interfaith Caregivers, P.O. Box 319, Olean, NY 14760, or call either organization for further information.
Also new this year, interns with their partnership with Dream It Do It will be assisting with recording “thank yous” on iPads at the headquarters.
“We have also met with the director at the Mother House to enlist assistance from some of the sisters to greet both community members dropping off gifts and receivers picking up gifts,” Hall said.
Hall said the Gift Tree’s goals this year include meeting the community needs this holiday season, building a sense of community within all members of this program and assisting receivers through meaningful conversation to make referrals to support services and organizations to help make a change in their financial situation if necessary.
“If you are able, please consider supporting an individual or family from the Gift Tree this Christmas,” Moretz added. “Your donations make a difference.”