Red tags disappearing at Island Market

The red tags of the Island Market giving tree are disappearing faster than Christmas fudge, proving islanders know the secret reward of giving. The experience of joy.

The giving tree was erected the week of Thanksgiving with ornament tags representing 105 children in need of a Christmas gift this year. In a little over a week, only nine tags remained, the tree already had wrapped gifts beginning to pile under its lowest branches, and the sign-out sheet was full of the names of donors, each of whom will fulfill a child’s wish.

On Dec. 2, the tree’s red tags were replenished with about one hundred more children in need.

“So far we’re running parallel to last year, which is a good thing,” Island Market’s Judi Lindgren said. “We don’t want anybody to be left out.”

No matter how many tags linger on the tree through the season, Lindgren is asked the same question every year: are you worried yet?

Lindgren has spearheaded the giving tree for the last nine holiday seasons and she never panics.

“I don’t worry about it because it always works out one way or another,” Lindgren said.

The giving tree is a community project. Lindgren does much of the work on her own time. Marion Rathbone and Belinda Landon of Vern’s Bayside actively fundraise. Vern’s employees have been known to give up their holiday bonuses. Erin O’Dell of Orcas Family Connections and Amber Paulsen of Kaleidoscope do much of the work including making the tree accessible to those in need and confidentially distributing the gifts up to the last minute.

“We’re usually delivering Christmas Day,” Paulsen said.

Paulsen has seen the giving tree come full circle through the years, with families who were in need one year taking red tags the next and giving to another family.

Paulsen’s daughter, Ashlee Minnis, helps out with the giving tree. Paulsen says Ashlee got more deeply involved when she saw the benefits of the program when helping in past years.

“We get the thank yous of the face to face deliveries. It’s the appreciation you see in parents’ faces,” Paulsen said.

If you know of a child who could benefit from the giving tree, forms can be picked up at Kaleidoscope or Island Market. Paulsen encourages parents to sign up early as it takes a lot of advance coordination to do the work of the giving tree.

Participation is simple. One, pick a red tag or two from the tree. Two, buy the gift wished for and wrap it. Three, bring it to Island Market. Four, feel the joy.

Donors who can’t shop and wrap the child’s gift can make a monetary donation to PO Box 1476. Funds raised will be used to buy gifts for any children whose tag remains on the tree the week of Christmas.

One way to support the giving tree could not be any more simple. Go to Vern’s Bayside and put a bill on the ceiling of the lounge. All of those bills, large and small, are used to buy gifts for the giving tree this year and next.