‘Giving Tree’ short 20,000 gifts

But ‘virtual’ tree still makes giving possible

More than 20,000 children may miss out on gifts this Christmas, due to a deficit of donations to the Family Giving Tree.

Nearly 55,000 needy Bay Area children received gifts from the Family Giving Tree’s Holiday Program last year. But this year, when 6,000 volunteers arrive to prepare gifts before Christmas they won’t have enough presents to sort, founder and “Queen Elf” Jennifer Cullenbine, who started the program in Palo Alto, said.

“We are now facing a huge deficit. ... Sixteen years ago I started this program as an MBA project. In all those years, we have never had to worry about not being able to provide gifts for all the families we serve.

"Unfortunately, like the vast majority of nonprofits, we are feeling a dramatic change in donations due, we believe, to the year of major world catastrophes that have needed so many resources,” she said.

“Giving Trees” are placed at every Wells Fargo Bank and most Banks of the West. Each tree contains dozens of cards listing a gift request for a girl or boy.

“To donate, pick up a gift card, buy the gift and take it to the bank,” Bob Cullenbine, chief financial officer and self-described “Papa Elf” said.

Or give through the Virtual Giving Tree.

At , click on the virtual tree to donate. “It’s just like picking a tag off the tree. We buy the gifts ourselves,” Cullenbine said.

There is still time to donate.

“The deadline is Dec. 15, but gifts are accepted all the way until Christmas,” he added.

Sue Dremann

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