by Sarah A. Peterson
The holiday spirit is alive and well at Clovis’s Woods Elementary School, which has been sponsoring a Giving Tree charity drive every December for over a decade. Woods parent Heather Devany gave Kings River Life the scoop on what the program is all about, and the Giving Tree’s impact on Woods Elementary and its surrounding community.
KRL: What does the Giving Tree program entail?
Heather Devany: Every year, Woods reaches out to a school in Clovis Unified to see if they can help provide families in need with some holiday cheer. (Alta Sierra and Buchanan High School join us as well.) We send letters to the staff at Woods, and they identify students in need. We create an apple for each child in that family, and have it available for students to ‘pick’ in the Woods office.
They shop for a clothing item and a toy for the child they select, and then bring their presents to Woods. We also collect canned foods for each family. On the day before winter break, we deliver all the presents and canned food to the site, and it is all distributed to the families.
KRL: How did the idea for the Giving Tree project come about?
Heather: Woods’ former principal, Tracy Smith, saw there was a need in the community for a program like this, and decided to start the project at Woods.
KRL: How long has the Giving Tree been in existence?
Heather: This will be the program’s twelfth year.
KRL: How have the students responded?
Heather: The students love to participate and give back during this season; they are excited to shop for another child.
KRL: What has been the response of the surrounding community?
Heather: The response has been overwhelming; we cannot keep apples up for long! The canned food drive was huge last year, and brought in an enormous number of cans. The community has embraced the Giving Tree, and has been very willing to help in any way they can!
KRL: What do you hope the students will learn from the Giving Tree?
Heather: We hope they will learn the lesson that it is more important to give than to receive. We also hope that they realize that there are people in the world with far less than they have, and so it is our duty to give when we can.
KRL: Did Shel Silverstein’s classic The Giving Tree inspire the project? If so, how?
Heather: Yes, the lesson from the book The Giving Tree, that we should give what we have, is something that this project embodies.
KRL: How have parents and teachers responded?
Heather: Again, we feel so blessed that the Woods community always supports this project and makes it a success every year! We love that Alta Sierra and Buchanan High School join with us to make this a success as well!