A group of students is making sure the holidays don’t pass by those most in need.
The Giving Tree is back and children came to Oakville Grocery Store in downtown Healdsburg to get the ball rolling on the project, now in its third year.
The Giving Tree starts with paper ornaments which are crafted by the children. Members of the homeless community then write down what they would like on the ornaments before putting them up on the tree for residents to fulfill. The presents are then taken out to the homeless community by Reach for Home’s Rick Cafferata.
The tree project has been organized each year by local homeless advocate Gail Jonas and the kids were getting into the spirit Nov. 13 as they grabbed scissors and got to work.
“I just like doing stuff for other people. I think it’s really nice,” Bella Boardman said.
Sophia Jonas said it was her second year helping create the ornaments. She said like this year, she came out with friends and family her first time.
“I think it’s fun to make them and just spend time with people,” Sophia Jonas said.
After the ornaments have their gifts listed on them, she said she liked to see what was on people’s wish lists and helping spread the word to people who might be interested in donating.
For Julia Dolph, this was another way to help her community. Previously, she ran a dog walking service for her neighbors.
“I think this is a really good way to show our dedication to the community,” she said.
And there are sweet rewards for the help, too, as Josh Proctor pointed out. A slew of cookies were available to help keep the energy up.
Having kids help with the Giving Tree is a big part of the project, Cafferata said.
“I have them (gift recipients) to where they break down and cry. Cause somebody gave them something and especially something that they asked for. Not just something that somebody gives you out of the blue. It means so much to them,” Cafferata said. “It’s wonderful to get the younger generation involved. They go home and teach their parents a thing or two.”
The kids’ work pays off, too.
“Last year I got a really cool pair of boots,” said Lucky, a member of the homeless community.
Lucky said that he appreciates the energy the kids bring to the project.
The first year the tree went up, it had 20 ornaments, Cafferata said. The last year there were around 30. There was concern from last year, however, when shortly after the gifts from the tree were given, there was a police sweep of camps, which possibly left people without their new gifts.
Cafferata said he’s been working with California Highway Patrol and the Sheriff’s Office to have a better head’s up when it’s time to clear out.
“I’m working this year with them and they’re supposed to give me a two-week head’s up so this way we can move them,” he said.
He said that the relationship has been improving after a few meetings. As far as the local police department, Cafferata said sweeps aren’t really an issue.
“The Healdsburg police don’t really do this,” he said.
Rody Jonas said he had been involved in helping the homeless since the third grade after a field trip to St. Paul’s Church. He said the homeless sweeps were counter to treating people decently.
“Why do they do that? They’re still human beings. They still have to live,” he said. “My room is a lot messier than their camps.”
The city isn’t as bad as some areas, however, Lucky said.
“The best part about Healdsburg is you can actually live here,” Lucky said. “Everywhere else I’ve lived in the country you can’t. Here we can be humans, which involves the community.”
Lucky said he tries doing his part to give back as well. Lucky makes jewelry, intricately wrapping wire designs around glasses frames and more. He said once a month he hides a piece in the Plaza and posts it to social media to try and make a scavenger hunt for locals.
“You got to do something for the community. You can’t just ask,” he said.