The many ways of giving | Editorial

The spirit of giving is alive and well on Orcas Island.

And while there are many opportunities to help local families and island nonprofits this time of year, there is another call for help that sometimes goes unanswered.

“There is a need for more than just presents,” said Orcas Family Resource Director Erin O’Dell. “Basic needs of shelter, utilities, access to health care, food, clothing and transportation are not being met.”

While struggling parents rely on services like the Giving Tree to make Christmas bright for their kids, those interested in helping families pay their rent or power bills can contact O’Dell at

“The need is year-round but especially during the holidays,” she said.

OPALCO members can round up their electric bill each month to help islanders pay for their power. For more information, go to

The Orcas Island Community Foundation has an online gift catalog for donating to critical programs – everything from the senior center to the resource center. Visit

But for those who want to contribute by buying gifts, O’Dell said the Giving Tree is an integral part of the community.

“Kids need to fit in with their peers,” she said. “The Giving Tree might provide their only big gift of the season or even whole year. Stress reduction in the home is important to create healthy bonds and memories and development. Social pressures are high at the holidays.”

The tree is located at Island Market and holds more than 200 tags for island kids. You can choose a tag and purchase the items listed by Dec. 18. You don’t have to buy everything on the tag. Items that aren’t purchased will be paid for by monetary funds collected through fundraisers.

Each year forms are sent out to local schools for families that are in need. They can request any items, but donors are asked to not exceed $100 when making purchases. Monetary items and very gently used items are also accepted. The forms are turned into anonymous tags or wish lists that adorn the Giving Tree located at the market.

The market also has a Santa Mailbox, which serves as a way for families to turn in wish lists for the Giving Tree or for children to write letters to Santa.

However you plan to give this year, O’Dell offered these wise words of advice.

“Create good bonds and memories. Take some pressure off. Lower judgment. The need to give is as important as the need to receive. Create opportunities for everyone to give – even children.”