Since its inception in the year 2000, ‘The Giving Tree’ initiative has been one of the most successful collaborations between the Third Sector and the Public Sector in Northern Ireland.
Bringing together the social awareness of Department for Communities employees with the social care experience and first-hand knowledge of both Belfast Central Mission and St Vincent de Paul, the Giving Tree routinely distributes gift and toy parcels to more than 3,500 children each Christmas.
Tracy Meharg, Permanent Secretary of the Department for Communities, said:
“This continues to be a highlight for our staff teams and their families, and we know our offices spend much of the year gathering toys and gifts to donate to this wonderful cause. Many of our team also take time out of their schedules to come down and volunteer with the sorting and distribution of the toys.”
Historically, the initiative’s base of operations each December was Belfast Central Mission’s building in Belfast city centre and St Vincent de Paul premises in north Belfast. As a result of the pandemic, BCM moved its toy-based operation to Donegall Road Methodist Church and its halls in south Belfast, where the additional space allowed for required social distancing and restrictions to be effectively introduced.
Nicky Conway, Chief Executive of Belfast Central Mission (BCM), said:
“As with every facet of life, the coronavirus pandemic has presented us with hurdles and a situation we have never found ourselves in. Families and individuals have struggled so much over the last two years, both financially and emotionally, and we are doing all we can to ensure they can have a semblance of a happy Christmas.”
The number of families being referred by social workers and community groups, or who get in touch with the Giving Tree directly, continues to increase year on year, with a mid-December cut off to ensure all the children can receive a gift in time for Christmas. Unfortunately, due to the high demand, there is still a waiting list that gets added to until days before Christmas.
Mary Waide, Regional President of St Vincent de Paul North Region said:
“The unwavering, and often unfathomable, level of support we receive from the Department for Communities means that this project can continue to help those who need it most. Since the onset of COVID-19, SVP has been supporting the donating of vouchers as virtual giving empowers families to prioritise and choose their own gifts, while maintaining their sense of dignity.”
To learn more about the Giving Tree Appeal, email firstname.lastname@example.org