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Westminster UCC's Tree of Sharing may be largest in U.S.

Westminster Congregational UCC in Spokane has one of the largest, if not the largest, Tree of Sharing projects in the country, according to former coordinator Jon Louis.

“Every time I log in a doll or other toy, I think of how incredible the gift givers are because many buy more than just the requested gift,” said Ann Marie Floch, 2011 coordinator for the Tree of Sharing.  “It keeps my hope alive that the world will ‘get it’ and care about each other.”

At Tree of Sharing tables set up at three malls in Spokane and Spokane Valley, shoppers pick up computer-generated tags with gift requests from 62 agencies. The tags, which now have bar codes and are printed on peel-off sticky paper, describe the recipient and gift. 

For example, one this year was a 70-year-old man who wants mittens and another was a seven-year-old boy who wants art supplies and a game.  Shoppers bring gifts with the tags affixed to them to Tree of Sharing locations by Dec. 12.

This year, Floch said agencies requested 6,300 gifts for their clients. 

When it started in 1980, there were 650 tags from eight agencies. In early years, requests were pasted on colored paper cut in the shape ornament sand hung on a tree. Floch remembers seeing a Tree of Sharing in the Skywalk downtown.  When the project expanded to University City mall, Veradale UCC also recruited volunteers.

With the malls open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, about 520 volunteers serve three-hour shifts.  For the seven days the donated warehouse space is open to receive and sort gifts for agencies to pick up, there are about 35 volunteers.

Volunteers come from the churches, but also from agencies and businesses.  They include high school youth and people who were recipients of gifts in the past, said Floch. 

Organizations requesting gifts include Headstart/ECEAP, three elementary schools, Eldercare, Catholic Charities and many more.

Floch, who has been a member at Westminster for three years, added that any extra gifts donated without a tag are available so that representatives of agencies requesting gifts can go through those gifts to find gifts for tags not taken.  The remaining gifts are taken to the Sharing Room at the church and available all year for people from agencies to pick up to meet gift needs for clients.

Louis said the program has given $2 million in gifts since it began.

In 2011, the Tree of Sharing became an independent nonprofit to encourage giving from more corporations, which would not give to a church. 

Assuris Northwest Health and KREM-TV, a co-sponsor since 1982, provide for the publicity. The Air National Guard and Boy Scouts pick up and transport gifts from the malls to the warehouse.

“It does not take much to change people’s lives or give them a moment of peace,” Floch said, based on her experience with the Homeless Coalition and with Westminister’s team helping Shalom Ministries’ Dining with Dignity program at Central United Methodist Church in Spokane.

For information, call 509-999-3956, email or visit


Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © December 2011





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