The holidays have officially begun at WPI with the arrival of a beloved campus tradition—the Spirit of the Giving Tree. This year, the program will make more of an impact than ever as it expands to bring holiday cheer to even more families in need.
Run by the Community Service Center in the WPI Office of Student Activities Office, the Spirit of the Giving Tree offers a way for the WPI community to help underprivileged children in Worcester. Each year, WPI students, faculty, and staff flock to the Campus Center to “adopt” a child by selecting an ornament with their name from the festively adorned tree and buying them a holiday present.
Assistant director of student activities Christine Kobza, who is overseeing the program for her first time, says that although she knew how popular the program is, she was impressed by the quick reaction on campus.
“Within about ten minutes of sending an announcement that the tree was up, a line of people came to select their child to adopt,” says Kobza. “We’ve also heard from many WPI organizations and departments who can’t wait to adopt a child and work together to buy them a special gift.”
The program began over a dozen years ago, when WPI connected with the Friendly House, a local non-profit organization that provides a variety of social, educational, and financial services to help families in Worcester. Since then, the program has grown steadily and now also supports additional children through Catholic Charities of Worcester.
The 2014 Spirit of the Giving Tree, which stands at about six feet tall and is topped with a red star, contains ornaments with names of more than 150 children—its largest number ever. There are still 43 children left to adopt before Dec. 4, she said. However, Kobza isn’t worried about the increase in gift recipients.
“In all of the years that we’ve run this program, we’ve always adopted out every single child,” says Kobza. “There is such a positive response from so many people at WPI that I’m confident we will continue this inspiring tradition.”
Children requesting gifts range in age from just 10 months to 17 years old. A form was filled out for each, with information about their favorite activities and a list of five gifts that they hope to receive this holiday. Many have asked for typical children’s toys such as video games and action figures, while others have requested more practical items, including winter mittens, hats, and jackets.
One 11-year-old girl demonstrated true holiday spirit by asking for presents for her siblings, as well as “homes and food for everyone, and peace on earth.”
WPI community members can select their ornaments through Dec. 4 at the Student Activities Office on the 3rd floor of the Rubin Campus Center. Everyone should bring their gifts to the Campus Center between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Dec. 5, when the presents will be loaded into a truck and transported to the charities.
“I’ve been told that it’s an impressive sight to see, with piles of gifts filling up the Campus Center stage,” says Kobza. “It’s amazing how generous the WPI community is, and how willing everyone is to give a little of their time and open their hearts to children who are just looking for a happy holiday.”
– By Jennifer Wyglinski