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Tree of Hope campaign still short of 2019 goal

A volunteer with Family and Children’s Services of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington’s Tree of Hope campaign clicks his heels as he pushes a cart full of bags to the front door to be delivered to area children and teens during the 2018 campaign. Photo by Family and Children’s Services.

After reaching a record $70,000 raised last year, the 2019 Tree of Hope campaign is falling short, and there are just days left for the campaign to reach its $40,000 target.

The campaign is run annually by Family and Children’s Services of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, and is one of the oldest holiday campaigns in the province. The first such campaign took place shortly after the creation of Family and Children’s Services in Kingston in 1894. The 2019 campaign, which began on Wednesday, Nov. 13, is planning to help 900 children served by the Children’s Aid Society with toys, clothing, and more this holiday season.

“Once again, we’re asking for the community’s support to help the children, youth and families we serve. Let’s show them what the holiday spirit is all about as they benefit from our incredibly generous community,” said Sonia Gentile, Executive Director of Family and Children’s Services.

Last year, the campaign raised more than any other in the agency’s 100+ years serving the community. Raising almost $70,000, the Tree of Hope helped nearly 850 kids. According to Family and Children’s Services, half of those children were under the age of nine, including 50 infants. Another 40 per cent were between the ages of nine and 17, and about a third of those served were outside of Kingston, including 75 from Napanee.

Beyond supplying toys and clothing at the holidays, the 2018 Tree of Hope campaign afforded the agency the ability to help hundreds of kids throughout the year, including sending a record number of children to summer camp in July and August of this year. The campaign also helped to buy essentials for infants and personal items, and fulfill other needs of the families served by the Children’s Aid Society. It supported urgent travel requests, and sports and recreation programs for those families, too. The campaign is about much more than ensuring children in our region have a gift during the holidays, explained John Suart, Manager of Community Relations for Family and Children’s Services.

“The kids we serve need so much more than toys. They need socks and underwear, winter coats and boots. Babies need cribs and children need new beds. And their needs don’t stop come January. That’s why the money we raise helps them all year round with things like summer camp, sports and recreation,” Suart expressed.

“For example, last January after the 2018 Tree of Hope campaign ended a family asked us for help buying a headstone for a child who had passed away. We spent Tree of Hope funds to help.”

In order to be able to do the same this year, the campaign needs to reach its goal. The agency has already reached their goal for toys collected, but they are short on their $40,000 target. Suart explained why it is important for Family and Children’s Services to reach that goal.

“We need that money to pay for things we’ve already purchased, like the $5,000 we spent back in October buying winter clothing or the money we spent on buying gift cards for teens. We also need it for big ticket items like beds, cribs and other things. And we need the money to fund year-round enrichment activities such as summer camp,” he said, noting that the campaign is run by two dozen volunteers and staff, and planning for it began in July.

“The more we can raise the more we can do to help kids.”

This year, the campaign will help people right here in the Kingston community, like Mary*, who reached out to Family and Children’s Services for support. Last year, the young single mother with four kids, aged 3 to 12, experienced some very hard times. Despite working full time, Mary was unable to keep food on the table, or gas in her car. After the family had observed the holiday in previous years, she had to cancel Christmas. This year, she’s asking the Tree of Hope for help, including with toys, personal items, clothing, bedding and more for her kids. She’s also asking for help for her family to do something together, like a dinner and a movie.

Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 is the last day to donate to the campaign. That day, Family and Children’s Services will host a Tree of Hope day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at their 817 Division Street location, where sponsors are welcome to bring in their gifts. Donations of money can be made by cash, debit, or credit card. Additionally, donations can be made online at www.HelpTreeofHope.ca.

Then, join Family and Children’s Services for the live results of the campaign on the agency’s Facebook page on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019 at 11 a.m.

“We urgently need people to donate money to the Tree of Hope. Can your family help one of the families we serve this holiday season?” said Gentile.

*Editorial note: name has been changed to protect the identity of the individual and her family.

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