Year round, students in Oxford’s schools learn the importance of kindness and giving.
But that message is particularly strong this time of year, with many schools housing a tree decorated, not with ornaments, but with tags marked with items that families and local charities may need or want.
These trees, called Giving Trees, are one of several annual initiatives that the staff and students undertake in local schools to ensure the holiday season brings cheer to all.
Leonard Elementary, Oxford Elementary, Clear Lake Elementary and Lakeville Elementary are among the schools that have reported having Giving Trees this year.
For some of these schools – throughout the school year – administration and faculty identify families in need from the school district.
They choose a few different families and contact them to obtain their clothing sizes and what the children want in terms of toys. The names of the families are kept confidential.
Tags are then placed on the tree with an individual item written on each.
Faculty and students can pick a tag from the tree, volunteering to donate that item, Leonard Elementary Principal Paul McDevitt said. People take tags, purchase what is written on them and bring the items back wrapped.
The idea behind these Giving Trees is to spread warmth and happiness to everyone during the holiday season, according to McDevitt.
“Often the Giving Tree is able to help families during the holidays at just the right time and brings our community together. Parents, staff, community members, businesses and organizations all participate in Leonard Elementary’s Giving Tree,” McDevitt wrote in an email to this reporter. “It’s this sense of coming together as a community that helps make Leonard a special place. The Giving Tree also helps our students witness and understand the spirit of giving, community, taking care of each other and doing something nice for one another.”
McDevitt said the school has collected nearly 100 gifts towards the cause so far this year, which will go to 25 local families.
For other schools, these donations may be donated to local charities.
At Oxford Elementary, the donations this year will benefit children at the House of Providence foster home, according to Administrative Assistant Donna Weis
House of Providence takes in foster youth who have been either abused and neglected or unable to find a permanent family.
These giving trees operate until December 15, when all the donations will be collected and given to families.