Friday, December 28, 2018

The Giving Tree Experience

During the holiday season, many of us are busy shopping for our friends and family. It’s also the time of year when we consider ways we can help those in need within our communities, I do this by looking for volunteer opportunities. Donating my time or resources is valuable to me because I connect with neighbors and hopefully improve conditions for someone going through a difficult time.

As a newer employee with Community Transit, I was excited to participate in the employees’ Giving Tree program. The 2018 program, powered by employees, focused our efforts on bringing holiday cheer to homeless students living without a guardian.

Everett Public Schools’ Kids in Transitions (KIT) program helps homeless youth attend school without barriers or interruption. They organize community closets where students can find warm clothing to wear and pay fees for students to join sports or clubs.

For homeless students living without a guardian, it can be difficult to connect with support programs and resources during the winter break. While other students might be looking forward to time off from school, for these kids it’s time off from a warm building and hot meals. KIT coordinated with Community Transit employees to help students identified as “unaccompanied,” or without a legal guardian over the winter break.

Employees organized a gift drive for the teens, working with Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) employees on a Giving Tree program at both agencies. We took tags from “giving trees” located in their offices and purchased items listed on the tags, including sports gear, cosmetics and warm clothing. I took two tags and went shopping on a lunch break with a co-worker. We found and purchased a warm flannel, a hat, gloves and socks.

Donated items were gathered in a large room and organized by type. I and several of my co-workers volunteered personal time to wrap gifts and fill 105 backpacks with presents, personal hygiene kits, snack bags, gift cards valued at around $25 and a $10 ORCA card for use on public transit.
Community Transit employees wrapping gifts on break.

Backpacks were delivered to four high schools in the Everett and Mill Creek area. I was given the opportunity to help deliver backpacks and meet staff working with the KIT program. Kelly Shepherd, Sequoia High School principal, explained that for some of these kids, they would be receiving presents for the holidays for the first time in a while. Hearing stories about teens doing their best to attend school while dealing with homelessness, and the impact of our collective efforts gave me a feeling of being a part of something much bigger than myself.

This is the third year of a Giving Tree partnership between the agency, DSHS and Everett Public Schools. Over that time, 275 backpacks were provided to students. I’m so happy to have participated in the program this year. The opportunity to give and help these teens was a great gift and a highlight of my holiday season.  

Community Transit employees delivering backpacks to Everett Public Schools
Community partnership “giving trees” can remove the guesswork, for those who may not know how or where to donate during the holiday season. Personally, I enjoy when I find an intersection between my professional life and helping those in the community where I work and live. Working for an agency where employees are empowered to invest in our community, is one of many reasons why I am grateful to be part of Community Transit.

What ways will you give back in 2019?

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