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The Giving Tree

Branches Out Holiday Cheer To Our Community's Children

Article by Alessandra Guarneri

Photography by Phillip Barone

Originally published in Wayne Lifestyle

When you think of the holiday season, what comes to mind? Many envision lighting the family menorah or tearing open holiday wrap to reveal a spectacular gift under the tree. But unfortunately, there’s a solemn side to the most wonderful time of the year for others. The concept of purchasing gifts tends to create a looming feeling of anxiety and pressure for many around the globe.

Each year, parents do the best they can to not strain themselves financially while still giving their children a memorable holiday experience. Families all across the world, even locally, are in need of assistance to make this holiday season a spectacular one. And luckily, the Wayne Unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest New Jersey is stepping in to make that happen.

Each year, Wayne’s Boys & Girls Club hosts a Giving Tree event that gives residents the opportunity to donate specific gifts to local families in need during the holidays. The families and children receiving the gifts remain confidential, although they are allowed to request gifts that cater to their everyday needs such as dish towels, sheets, blankets, etc.

Families attend a special holiday dinner in December, prior to the holidays, which gives parents the opportunity to secretly collect the gifts they will be able to give their children during their designated holiday celebration. The event enlists a staff of local individuals to spread the spirit and ease the stress of the holidays.

Dan Dipsey, one of the organization’s unit directors, reveals that there is a genuine sense of holiday magic behind this touching event. “Everybody coming together is really a sight to see. In a wild world, it gives us a feeling that there is still some hope left. It’s truly a wonderful thing to be a part of.”

Local students who are a part of the organization’s Keystone Club help out with the event by organizing the donated gifts and loading them into family vehicles prior to the event ending. Although the event only lasts a couple of hours, tons of work and collaboration is put into it by the Wayne community, in particular Connie Venturelli, School Nurse at Ryerson Elementary School.

The Giving Tree sincerely captures the essence of giving during the holiday season, especially for those who donate and volunteer. “People who volunteer don’t get anything out of this except goodwill and a genuinely good feeling that comes with giving back, but it always becomes their favorite event because they're doing something selfless.”

Clearly, the annual Giving Tree event seemingly doesn’t get put together overnight. Donators, volunteers, and the staff of the Boys & Girls Club all come together to make the magic happen.

“A lot of work gets put into this event,” Dipsey reveals. “And it's not something we like to brag about, but it's something that really gets us going for the following year and inspires us to keep pushing through the cold days of winter.”

Every year, the Giving Tree is able to provide over 100 children with gifts for the holidays. Local restaurants and businesses donate enormous amounts of food such as pies of pizza and trays of pasta to cater to the event’s guests. There’s even some entertainment at the annual event for both children and parents.

“We've had a local high school band come to perform holiday songs and we've even had Santa make some appearances,” Dipsey said. “We play games. It’s a good time.”

The Giving Tree reminds local residents that there's always an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life, especially during the holiday season. The Wayne Unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest New Jersey is inviting the local Wayne community to come together once again for their annual Giving Tree event where generous acts of kindness continue to be appreciated year after year.

The Wayne Boys & Girls Club is located at 153 Garside Ave, Wayne. To get involved with the Giving Tree event, they can be reached at 973-476-5285.