Yesterday (15 November 2017) saw the launch of the 18th year of the ‘Giving Tree’, a cross-community initiative run by Belfast Central Mission (BCM) and the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) to help local children in need have a happier Christmas.
The ‘Giving Tree’ gives members of the public an opportunity to donate a toy or gift for a local child with the gifts being divided equally between SVP and BCM before being distributed to families in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Shoppers choose a ‘tag’ for a boy or girl of a particular age and return the unwrapped gift, along with its tag, to the tree, where volunteers from both charities will be on-hand to answer any questions.
PHOTO: Superman aka Rick Gordon took some time out from saving the world to help
4 year old Olivia Blair and 3 year old Ksawier Pal launch the 2017 Giving Tree.
The two charities have been involved in giving toy and food parcels to local children, families and older people in need for many years. With an increasing number of families coming to the charities for help in the run-up to Christmas, they approached M&S with the idea of having a ‘Giving Tree’ in the Donegall Place store. M&S immediately agreed and have now supported the initiative for 18 years.
Brendan O’Neill, Regional President of St Vincent de Paul, explained: “We recognise that this is the busiest time of year for the majority of us and yet we are always overwhelmed and humbled by the generosity shown by the Northern Ireland’s public who really do go out of their way to donate gifts to the Giving Tree – in fact many now see it as a Christmas tradition. Each one ensures that a child will have a present to open on Christmas morning. We are so grateful to M&S and the public for their ongoing support of this initiative which we really rely on to meet the needs of local children. Sadly, more and more families are struggling financially and are coming to us for a bit of extra support, especially at this time of year when budgets are really stretched.
“Christmas should be such a happy time for everyone, but for many, affording the cost of heating their home, clothing their children and putting food on the table is already very difficult - add the stress of finding money for gifts and the situation soon becomes overwhelming. What may seem like quite a simple gesture to one person can really make a world of difference to another and we would really encourage as many people as possible to give something if they can, no matter how small.”
Rev Richard Johnston, BCM Superintendent, added: “As a charity, BCM has been supporting people across Northern Ireland for more than 125 years and will continue to do so, particularly those most vulnerable in society. The support from Marks and Spencer for the Giving Tree has been invaluable and the members of the public have been so generous over the years.”
Colin McGreevy, M&S Belfast Store Manager said: “Marks & Spencer is delighted to once again be doing its bit to help promote this very worthwhile project which encompasses the true meaning of Christmas, reaching out to families who are really struggling in difficult times.
“We know our customers are particularly generous at this time of year and will be keen to offer their support so we’re actively encouraging them to consider buying an extra gift to place under the Giving Tree that could bring a smile and a little bit of festive cheer to someone less fortunate.”
The Giving Tree will run from 26 November - 9 December and can be found on the second floor of M&S in Donegall Place, Belfast city centre near the toy department.
For more information on donating to or applying for help from the Giving Tree, please contact BCM on 9024 1917 or SVP on 9035 1561.