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The Giving Tree That Branches Out

During free period on Nov. 19, 2018, members of the Siena Community and Santa himself gathered in the Sarazen Student Union to celebrate the spirit of giving during the Christmas season. With a visit from Santa and free holiday-inspired cookies, those in the SSU could not help but smile at the first glimmer of hope, goodness and the spirit of gifting that this time of the year evokes in all of us. Organized by the Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy on campus, Siena’s tradition of the Franciscan Giving Tree officially kicked off during the week of Thanksgiving.

Assistant to the Franciscan Center, Kara James, explained the process of finding local families that need our help this Christmas. The Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy on campus begins this project every year by sending letters to multiple Capital District Agencies, including homeless organizations, transitional living programs, disability services, and children’s services. These who then meet with their clients and compile a list of individuals and what they would like to receive.

At Siena, the Franciscan Giving tree is a deep-rooted tradition that many look forward to participating in each year. There are trees with request cards and drop-off locations in Foy Hall, the Chaplain’s Office, Snyder Hall, and in the Sarazen Student Union. To participate, choose a request card, purchase the desired gift(s), and place the wrapped or unwrapped gift under one of the trees at the listed locations with the request card secured to the outside of the package.

If you are looking to “pay it forward” on a budget, there are many gifts that do not cost more than $25. There are gift requests ranging from diapers to dolls to Lego sets to hats and gloves. At the Chaplain’s Office location of the Giving Tree, there are more expensive gift requests ranging from a Nintendo DS to Pogo Sticks to Crossgates Mall gift cards. These gifts are perfect to split with friends to bring the magic of the holidays to someone who may not experience it otherwise.

If you are interested in participating, make sure you stop by one of the many locations soon, as all gifts will be collected on and before Monday,  Dec. 10, 2018. Kara James shares “People don’t necessarily realize that the Franciscan Center is the sole provider for gifts for some Capital District families, and without your help, they would not otherwise receive gifts.” Every year, all students and faculty members are encouraged to do what they can for this cause and let the giving nature of this season inspire them.

Caroline Petrozzo ’20 shares what the Franciscan Giving Tree tradition means to her. “I have been at Siena for three years now, and have never participated in something so simple that could bring so much joy to someone,” Petrozzo said. Petrozzo and many other students will participate in this gift drive for the first time this year, and use this introduction as a way to start a holiday tradition of their own. At the heart of this long-standing Siena tradition is the spirit of St. Francis, and his devotion to serving others, even those that had commonly been overlooked. As you get into the holiday spirit this year, remember the ways in which you can gift the magic of the season to someone else to whom your favor would mean the world.