Holiday charities come up short this year

January 2, 2008 6:49:24 PM PST
It looks like it's going to be a blue Christmas for a lot of needy kids this year. Christmas is a time when wishes are made and promises are kept. These are The Family Giving Tree's roots, and for the first time, they are words the Milpitas non-profit can't' stand by.

"8,000 children will not be getting gifts from us," says Jennifer Cullenbine, executive director.

The Giving Tree's sole goal is to give Christmas gifts to needy children. They usually have enough for 70,000.

Normally on Christmas Eve, the warehouse is packed with people and donations. In fact, there are usually thousands of unwrapped gifts waiting to be wrapped by volunteers. But this year, there are only a few hundred.

"I think it's the economy and people being very afraid of the toy recalls. They're afraid of buying a toy and then finding out a month or two later it's on the recall list and might've hurt someone. This is our 18th year. We've never had a child go without a gift," says Cullenbine.

The children are from all over the Bay Area. On Christmas, the gifts are handed out through dozens of social service groups like the East Palo Alto Community Service Center. Oneida Branch only got 250 gifts this year for her neighborhood kids.

"They usually give me a thousand gifts so I'd be comfortable giving. But this year is tough," says Branch.

'Mother Branch' as everyone calls her, doesn't take disappointment lightly.

"I've been doing this for 52 years. I've never been able to say 'I'm sorry I don't have anything'. I will find something."

The 92-year-old got to work and asked those in her community for help -- and it came. Though the last minute donations are still not enough, deep down, Mother Branch admits, she's hoping for a miracle.

More Info:
East Palo Alto Community Service Center (650) 325-2848