An Annual Tradition of Giving

Elisabeth Tavarez

For almost 30 years, the Giving Tree program has brought Christmas joy to hundreds of needy local families. This year, 31 families with 110 children received gifts from the Marist community.

December 13, 2019—Service to others, particularly the less fortunate, is a central part of the Marist mission, and perhaps no other program embodies this value like the Giving Tree. For the last 28 years, Campus Ministry has ensured that hundreds of local families and children enjoy the holiday season by providing them with Christmas gifts.

Here’s how the Giving Tree works. Led by Director of Campus Ministry Brother Frank Kelly, FMS, Marist works with local human services organizations to identify families and children in need of assistance at the holidays. A student-led committee then sets up Christmas trees around the Marist campus with ornaments representing each local family’s needs or wants. Members of the Marist community are encouraged to either select a gift to purchase or make a monetary donation to fund Christmas gifts. Each year, hundreds of faculty, staff, and students respond enthusiastically, resulting in an enormous pile of gifts for needy local residents. The annual effort culminates in the Giving Tree Ceremony, held this year on December 8 in Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Chapel, at which the donated gifts are presented and blessed.

This year, Marist worked with six community agencies: Dutchess Outreach, The Grace Smith House, Catholic Charities, Family Services Crime Victims Assistance, Poughkeepsie Family Literacy, and Dutchess County BOCES ESL/GED Program. In total, 31 families with 110 children requested 976 gifts, including both necessities like warm coats and jackets and Christmas wishes like a toy or a bicycle. Because of the caring of the Marist community, dozens of disadvantaged Poughkeepsie-area children can look forward to opening gifts on Christmas morning. Said Kelly, “I would like to thank everyone who contributed to making this year an amazing success.”

In addition to Kelly, the student-led Giving Tree Committee works hard to make the Giving Tree a success and create a positive impact at Christmastime. This year’s co-chairs were Harry Parette ’21, a political science major from Mendham, New Jersey; Araceli Aragon ’21, a computer science major from New York City; Patrick Kutch ’22, a business administration major/data science & analytics minor from Holtsville, New York; and Ally Havenstrite ’22, a fashion merchandising major/business minor from Puyallup, Washington. 

Traditionally, the Giving Tree project has had a profound effect, not just on the families in the community, but on the Marist students who organize it. Aragon calls it “a great way to give back to people in need, just like the Marist Brothers have done and continue to do. I’m grateful to be able to help.” According to Parette, “The Giving Tree is one of the strongest manifestations of Marist’s values. It proves that students are looking for more than just an academic education when they come here. Marist is more than a school; it’s a community that is selfless and enthusiastic about service. It’s one of the most meaningful things I do on campus.”

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