Giving Tree Program benefits those in need this holiday

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - While you're out Christmas shopping this year, there's an easy way for you to check items off your list, and help someone in need have a jolly holiday.

You can take a tag off one of three "giving trees" at the Conestoga Mall to help people in need this Christmas, including some students at Grand Island Public Schools. (Source: Kelsey Dickeson, KSNB)

This is the eighth year the Conestoga Mall has partnered with local organizations to host their Giving Tree program. People have given hundreds of gifts to families in need through the program over the years.

There are three "giving trees" throughout the mall. You can pick a tag from one of six organizations, and buy gifts off a wish list of someone who needs some extra help this holiday.

Grand Island Public Schools participates in the program every year. They had around 30 students on the giving trees this season. All of them are between 13 and 18 years old.

"Those older kids kind of get left off on the side, so we try to help them get things that they need too," said Holly Boeselager, the families in transition coordinator at Grand Island Public Schools.

Boeselager said the older teens have aged out of the Toys for Tots program, which is what they do for their younger students in need.

When you read the wish lists of some of the GIPS students, you'll find what they want isn't extravagant: A lot of them listed items like hoodies, sweatpants, socks and underwear.

"A lot of the kids don't ask for toys or electronics. They ask for basic need items. They're so humble to just get what they can, and so a lot of them just want warm clothes, or new clothes," Boeselager said.

The kids they chose for the program are lower income. Boeselager said their families just don't have the resources to put presents under the tree this year.

"People in our community don't understand that we do have a lot of children that are lower income or in transition. These kids don't get the same opportunities as some of the other kids in our district. Doing the Giving Tree with the mall has been really helpful, because then those kids feel like they're special too," Boeselager said.

You can bring all unwrapped gifts to a drop box at the South Court of the mall. People at the mall will distribute them to each organization.

The final date for donations can be found at the bottom of each tag. Grand Island Public Schools would like all their gifts by December 15, so they can give them to the kids before school lets out for the year.

The latest donation date is December 22.