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Posted: 12/05/12

Sharing Tree seeks
kindness for 320 families

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      Families in the local area are depending on the kindness of residents to have a Merry Christmas.
       The Samaritan House's Sharing Tree program has distributed tags that contain the wishes of 320 families with the hope that generous individuals, families and organizations will fulfill those wishes.
       Each year, the Sharing Tree Committee interviews families receiving aid from the Samaritan House and determines their Christmas wish lists. The items from these lists are then written onto tags, which are then passed out to 16 local churches and other organizations.
       The tags, hung on "sharing trees," can be removed by anyone looking to answer that wish. The requests typically include, clothing, toys and bikes.
       Those who take a tag are asked to wrap the gift and return it to the location they took the tag from so those gifts can be delivered to a central location for sorting. The gifts will be collected on Dec. 9 and 10.
       Ed Risch, Sharing Tree Committee member, said this year's numbers show about 1,300 tags have been hung on the trees.
       "We encourage everyone to take a tag off the different Christmas trees in the different churches and to be generous with their gifts this year," Risch said.
       Risch said around 320 families will benefit from Sharing Tree, down from last year's number of 330. He said he doesn't believe the reduction is from any economic upturns.
       "We have fewer families that have signed up, although we do have more clients in the Samaritan House," he said.
       Despite the large demand, he expressed confidence in the generosity of the local community to make donations or to fulfill wishes.
       "The community is very generous with their wallets and pocketbooks in the Christmas season," he said. "Last year we had 2,400 to 2,500 gifts we handed out, and that's a lot of money to be spent."
       If residents are looking to donate time instead of money or gifts, the Sharing Tree Committee is seeking assistance in sorting the gifts. Sorting will take place at St. John Lutheran Church from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 12-14.
       The families will pick up the gifts on Dec. 15 and Dec. 16. Volunteers deliver gifts to those families that are unable to pick them up on Dec. 17. Last year's efforts were brought to fruition by 418 volunteers working more than 1,366 hours.
       Other local organizations contribute to the cause. The Romeo and Washington Goodfellows provide gift certificates to the families to be used for a Christmas meal, while the Romeo and Washington Lions Clubs throw a party for the children of the families.
       Tags that go unfulfilled are taken care of by the Sharing Tree Committee. Samaritan House will accept contributions to meet these needs as well as its other programs. Monetary donations can be made at the Samaritan House or by mail at 62324 Van Dyke, Washington, MI 48094.
       Samaritan House is a non-profit organization that provides assistance to families enduring tough financial times. Their services include food and utility assistance.
       Call (586) 752-4103 or (586) 255-3729 for more information.


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