Blessing Trees ready at area businesses

Karing for Kids, based out of Bluffton, has been assisting families in need within Wells and Huntington counties during Christmas time for 17 years through their Blessing Trees program.

Every year, school counselors and social service agencies refer families to Karing for Kids for assistance. Usually, in the beginning of November, churches, nursing homes, businesses and other organizations are able to set up a Blessing Tree. Participants may then choose items from the trees to shop for and drop off, or donate money so that volunteers may purchase the items.

After all items have been purchased and collected, items are sorted, wrapped and given to families so they have them for Christmas.

This year, though things will look a little bit different, Karing for Kids is still doing everything they can to make their annual Blessing Tree project run smoothly.

“I’m just thankful that we can still do it,” O’Reilly says.

O’Reilly, who heads up the Karing for Kids Blessing Tree project, says that the event usually runs like a “well-oiled machine” and hopes that, despite the changes that have to be made, that it will still go smoothly.

The largest change to be expected is the number of families that are receiving assistance this year. Normally, Karing for Kids is able to help up to 750 families. This year’s number will be 400. Part of this is due to a smaller amount of funds available.

Annually, Karing for Kids holds a golf-outing fund-raiser, which results in an average of $5,000 to $6,000 raised for the Blessing Tree event. When COVID-19 hit, the 2020 Blessing Tree event was in the early planning stages, and the sole fund-raiser for the event had to be canceled.

This issue with funding, along with the hurdle of guaranteeing social distancing, are the two main reasons that changes had to be made to the event. Because of the large gatherings that are normally required to pull off the Blessing Tree event, it had to be changed to allow for a smaller amount of people to be present at one time.

Once all items have been purchased and collected, there will be sorting days on Friday, Dec. 4, and Saturday, Dec. 5, at the Markle Church of Christ ministry building. Items will be sorted by kind so that parents and volunteers will be able to shop around. Markle Church of Christ is located at 455 E. Morse St., Markle.

This year, parents will be given a time slot during the weekend of Dec. 11, 12 and 13. During that time slot, parents, along with a Karing for Kids volunteers will “shop” around the available items at the MCC ministry building. All items will be free of charge to the families, as usual.

Shopping days are taking the place of wrapping parties, as wrapping parties require large groups of people to be in a confined space for extended amounts of time. During the shopping days, four small groups will be allowed to shop during their half-hour time slot. Each group will consist of parents and a Karing for Kids volunteer.

Another change that was made this year was the amount of items that each child would receive. Usually, children receive 11 items through the Blessing Tree program. This number was dropped down to eight due to funding and through some suggestions from the community.

“The kids will still get two outfits,” O’Reilly says. “Shirts, pants, shoes, socks, undergarments. They’ll also get a toy. Normally, we include a winter coat, but we were told by some local school counselors that children who need winter coats commonly receive them through donations at the schools by the time they would get them from us.”

O’Reilly also notes that, though the children usually receive a pair of pajamas as well, this item was taken out to provide more day-time clothing. The children would also normally receive two toys, but they will still be able to receive one this year. Families will also receive a frozen meal, courtesy of the Warren Church of Christ frozen meal ministry.

Blessing Trees were set up at participating businesses on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Those who are interested in donating may choose to purchase items or donate money directly to Karing for Kids. Monetary donations may be sent to 1481W-100N, Bluffton. Checks and cash are accepted.

An updated list of Blessing Tree locations may be located at karingforkids.us. Huntington locations include Crestview Middle School, First Merchants Bank, Horace Mann Elementary School, Lincoln Elementary, Northview Church of Christ, Schneider Electric, St. Peter Lutheran Church and Teachers Credit Union.

For more information about Karing for Kids and the Blessing Tree project, visit their website listed above.