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2515 Central Park Avenue, Evanston, IL 60201
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Family Focus Giving Tree 2021

Categories: Get Involved,Mission

It’s that time of year again – and what another extra-ordinary year it’s been! Family Focus has once again given us a list of 100 names of families and kids who could use a little extra Christmas joy, but the pandemic is still causing changes to our usual way of delivering that joy.

We know that some of you were terribly disappointed last year not to be able to wrap that special toy that was a child’s heartfelt wish or buy a warm bathrobe for an exhausted grandmother raising her grandchildren. But the situation is better a bit this year: while we once again won’t set up the Giving Tree in the Narthex and will instead use Sigh-Up Genius, we are able to offer our congregational elves the opportunity to give either a gift card or an actual gift! If you are comfortable shopping for a gift, you can choose a name that wants a specific item and fulfill that wish. If you’d prefer to give a gift card, there are plenty of names with gift cards as wishes. And, if you’d like to help, but have budget constraints or can’t get out to shop (or aren’t comfortable doing so), we’ll happily accept a check to add to a “purchasing pool” if you’d like to send one in any amount to the church with “Giving Tree” in the memo line. We’ll use the checks to buy extra gift cards for the neediest families.

You can access the Sign-Up Genius site here:

If you’d like to participate, you can go to the site and sign up next to a specific family or teen name. Then you can purchase the suggested type of gift or gift card and deliver it to Northminster by no later than December 15. The best way is for you to come by the church during office hours, be buzzed in, and leave your gift card in the container on the radiator to your immediate left marked “Giving Tree.” Since there are no gift tags hanging on the tree this year, PLEASE PUT THE CARD IN AN ENVELOPE – an ordinary one is fine – WITH THE RECIPIENT’S NAME ON IT AND YOUR CONTACT INFO! We’ll re-package each gift card in a bright envelope with a big, festive Christmas sticker on it addressed to each child or family.

A few notes on buying gifts or gift cards:

1. Although our standard recommended price range for a gift card in the past has been a range of $25-$30, for 2021 we’re suggesting that all gift cards for kids be in the set amount of $30. Since many of the names on our list this year are in family groups, this assures that each child wanting a gift card gets the same amount to “spend” on their heart’s desire. It also means that there might be a bit left over for the family to get some extra groceries if needed. However, if your budget can’t afford $30 this year – or even if it can – read on.

2. There are two “Extras” slots at the bottom of the list. The first is a repeat of what we did last year – undesignated gift cards in any amount to be given where help is needed most, and it is indeed needed. Some of the families on the list are immigrants/refugees in need while other families have fallen on hard times because of the pandemic or other events. One child suffered a traumatic brain injury and needs extra help and sensory toys. Several families consist of grandparents raising their grandchildren. And, in addition to the requests for gift cards from various grocery stores, we also received one for blankets. We’ve told the various social workers about the possibility of these “extra” cards and will ask their advice on where the need is greatest.

3. The second “extra” slot is just for fun and perhaps something that the younger members of our congregation would enjoy buying from their allowance or chore money: $5 Starbucks cards to use as “stocking stuffers,” a little bit of luxury that many of the people on this list can’t afford.

We of course recognize that this repeated change in procedure is again a huge disappointment to many of you, especially since we said last year that “…if we keep things simple and safe this year, we can hopefully return to our usual big bursts of Christmas cheer for Family Focus next year.” Well…let’s just repeat that hope here and now and project it onto 2022!

If you have any questions, or need someone to pick up your gift cards if you can’t (or shouldn’t) deliver them to the church in person, please contact Kelly Brest van Kempen.

Thank you, Northminster Elves! As usual, you’re making an extra-ordinary effort in these extra-ordinary times! Stay safe – and may blessings abound!

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