An 8-year-old boy from Potlatch would like a new pair of jeans.
A 15-year-old girl from Genesee wishes she had a gift card to Buckle.
These are what just a couple of the tickets show on the 29th annual Sharing Tree.
Every year since the program’s conception in 1985, founder Janie Nirk has put up the Sharing Tree.
“We started out originally to help out maybe two families in Potlatch,” Nirk said.
After Nirk presented the program to the Potlatch School District, where she spent many years as a teacher, the Sharing Tree branched out and started to grow in multiple towns.
The Sharing Tree provides donated gifts to children up to the age of 18 in Latah County.
Located inside the Palouse Mall, adjacent to the AT&T store, the Sharing Tree holds hundreds of colored tickets for children in four different towns: Potlatch – green, Genesee – red, Deary – yellow and Troy – purple. Potlatch alone contributes 300 tickets.
A child’s gender and holiday wish list item are on each ticket. Generally, the item is a toy, a gift card or a piece of clothing. To donate, all one has to do is pull a ticket from the tree, buy the item and place it in the sleigh next to the tree.
Monetary donations may be placed in a locked box next to the sleigh. All monetary donations are split evenly between the four towns.
This year, Sharing Tree volunteers are gift-wrapping donations for free near Macy’s in the Palouse Mall through Saturday.
The deadline to donate gifts is Dec. 17. Gifts received after the deadline will be stockpiled for next year. If a ticket is lost, or all the tickets are not pulled from the tree, monetary donations will be used to buy all the remaining gifts, which are distributed on Dec. 20.
According to Jo Menden, co-coordinator of Sharing Tree, the remaining gifts are distributed at schools on the day before winter break. Gift recipients may contact either Menden or Nirk about personally picking up gifts at a different location.
“Every wish is granted,” Menden said. “Every (ticket) is filled, one way or another.”
In the past, Menden has utilized leftover infants’ coats from her Coats for Kids campaign to donate to the Sharing Tree. The Lutheran Youth and a local 4-H Club also aid the Sharing Tree in fulfilling donations. The 4-H Club usually runs a fundraiser and has a shopping day to donate to the tree.
In late October Nirk and Menden, who has worked on the project for 25 years, sent out notification of the Sharing Tree to schools in Latah County. The schools then provided and later collected applications from families that outline their needs and wants for the Christmas season. This year, at least 24 families are being served with at least five tickets per child. Gift certificates and a game for the family are also provided. According to Menden, 15 years ago a single father was brought to tears because the program allowed his three sons to celebrate Christmas when they otherwise were financially unable.
Nirk said a single mother involved in the program has eight children that will benefit from the Sharing Tree. Nirk and Menden said they receive many applications from families such as these that ask solely for basic items such as underwear, blankets and clothing.
“Sometimes it kind of makes your heart ache, you know?” Menden said. “And that’s the kind of people that you want to help.”
According to Menden, there is no price limit for the gifts, but generally prices do not rise high enough to cause a problem. Those who donate do not necessarily have to buy only what is on the ticket. All gifts are welcome.
The Palouse Mall has hosted the Sharing Tree since its conception in 1985. The mall offers multiple amenities to the Sharing Tree program, such as supplies and security. In prior years, stores such as Bed, Bath and Beyond, Famous Footwear and Bath and Body Works have personally donated to the Sharing Tree.
Jake Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org