The leftover turkey is eaten, Black Friday is over, the Vols are going bowling, Cyber Monday and GivingTuesday are now history. Guess what? There’s only three and a half weeks until Christmas.
Thanksgivings that fall later in November mean you blink a few times and suddenly its December. This not only puts a crunch on remaining shopping days, it also puts a strain on local non-profits trying to pull together funds, toys, clothes and food baskets for families in need during the holidays. Most have deadlines coming up this week or next to get donations finalized for distribution before the kids are out of school for break.
Such is the case for Project Giving Tree (PGT) in Farragut. The long-running community effort needs to have monetary and gift card donations in by this Friday, Dec. 3, to prepare for its drive-through pick-up date on Dec. 9. The organization is a joint effort of the parent-teacher organizations at Farragut Primary, Intermediate, Middle and High schools.
“We are all working together to support our families who are in need of extra help this holiday season,” said LeighAnna Colgrove, the PGT chair for the Farragut High School PTSO. “We’re here to help overcome any barriers for parents or guardians to provide for these kids.”
In the past, items were purchased and assembled at one of the schools for the parents to come in for a shopping day. Last year, the Covid-19 pandemic demanded a change in protocol that is being repeated this year. Instead of handing out wrapped presents, PGT will be handing out gift cards so the families can go shopping themselves. Colgrove said the families seem to appreciate the new approach and that it will likely remain as part of the program going forward.
“Last year we surveyed our families, and this was something they really liked,” she said. “It gives them more choice in how that donation is spent. That flexibility is empowering for them.”
Colgrove and husband Benjamin have three children in the Farragut schools. She said doing the survey was important because it’s one thing to think you’re doing a good job but another to have that backed up by the experiences of those being helped.
“It’s just part of being a good steward as far as I am concerned,” she said. “You want to know you’re actually helping people in a meaningful way.”
Colgrove said PGT would also be distributing food baskets for Christmas dinner, tote bags with goodies, and that one donor is providing school spirit gear for all the kids. She also tipped her hat to Concord United Methodist Church for providing Walmart gift cards for “whatever needs the family has to cover food insecurity for the holidays.”
While the Christmas season is the big push every year, Colgrove said the PGT works closely with the Farragut schools’ social worker, Jelena Browning, to help families fill needs for their children throughout the year. She also wanted to credit the chairs from each school for the work they do to pull this off: Jessica Barksdale, Farragut Primary School; Christy Davis, Nikki Hickman, Kelley Neal (program finance), Farragut Intermediate School; Mary Greene and Kelly Hasan, Farragut Middle School.
“I certainly didn’t invent the wheel, but I want to keep it going,” Colgrove said of her involvement with PGT. “It renews your Christmas spirit.”
Gift cards in $25 or $50 amounts are the most helpful, whether Visa or MasterCard or to retail stores in Farragut such as Walmart or Kohl’s. They can be dropped off at any of the Farragut schools. The easier option is to make a monetary donation of any amount here. PGT can be contacted here with any questions. PGT will be providing for 100 families and 250 children.