“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”
This comforting – and memorable – assurance was first published in a New York Sun editorial in 1897. One hundred sixteen years later, the Theta Omega chapter of ESA steadfastly believes in Santa and welcomes the magic he imparts to the Christmas season.
As a result, its members are once again stepping up to orchestrate the Giving Tree Project, a familiar and cherished community endeavor.
Earleen Varns (605-638-0966) has offered to continue in her pivotal role as project leader. Sadly, she suffered a tragic personal loss this year. Despite her devastation, however, she remains amazingly committed to spreading Christmas joy. Varns plans to promote a festive holiday spirit in the Vermillion Community through the Giving Tree. A source of inspiration to her fellow ESA members, Varns encourages any and all Clay County families who might qualify to obtain the relevant forms through Head Start, Food Pantry, Public Health or Social Services.
Nine giving trees were set up during the week of Thanksgiving. Locations for this year include HyVee, Nook and Cranny, Pump & Pak, Sanford Hospital, Wal-Mart, Whimps, Nygren’s True Value Hardware, Vermillion Ace Hardware, and Vermillion Public Library (the Theta Omegas offer a heartfelt thank you to all!). These Christmas trees will be ornamented with gift tags for hopeful children and teens from the Vermillion area.
Interested community members may select a gift tag, shop for that child (hand-crafted gifts are welcome, too), attach the ESA gift tag, and return presents to any of the locations listed above. If anyone prefers to make a monetary donation, such envelopes will be available (alternately, donations may be sent directly to Earleen Varns at PO Box 44). In mid-December, ESA members will collect, organize, package and distribute all gifts, and on Christmas morning, several hundred children in the community will excitedly awake to learn of Santa’s visit.
The Giving Tree is a longstanding community project. As the original project leader Gayle Bliss chuckled, “It started back before we had computers!”
Its legacy is a circle of Christmas generosity. This observation was offered by Gayle, who then relayed the following story: “Some years ago, we received a check from a lady whose children had been recipients of Giving Tree gifts. She confided that at the time, she was down on her luck, unemployed, and overwhelmed. Later, she secured a job and got back on her feet. She never forgot how much the generosity of the Giving Tree Project meant to her family and very much wanted to give back.”
This story does attest to a circle of generosity, and the circle continues to expand – each year, new participants and supporters come forward. This year, for example, two new partners pledged contributions. Maurices is organizing a toy drive: for every toy (with a value of $5 or more) and/or Maurices gift certificate that is donated to the Giving Tree, the business will give a 20 percent discount coupon for Maurice’s merchandise. USD’s CSAC (Career Service Advisory Council) has already submitted a monetary donation. The ESA membership is grateful for these – and all – offerings to the Giving Tree.