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Getting to Yes: A Motto to Live by at The Giving Tree

Life offers us up many chances to make a difference….and the key to it all is to simply say “yes” when the opportunity presents itself. And if you have ever wanted to give of your time or help make someone else’s life easier or brighter, The Giving Tree offers so many ways for you to not only bring joy to others, but by doing so…to yourself.
 
This incredible legacy of saying “yes” began in 1988, when Myra Singer z”l, wife of Rabbi Emeritus Merle E. Singer of Temple Beth El, initiated a synagogue project known as The Giving Tree of Temple Beth El. Little did Myra know then, how it would grow to become an invaluable resource to our community at large, spreading cheer and offering assistance to those in need year-round. 

A Strong Foundation of Volunteers

Volunteers! The Giving Tree is one of the few local social action programs in the area that is 100% volunteer run. Over the years the program has grown from buying a few holiday presents for families in need in Dixie Manor to several specific programs including the Holiday ProjectQuiet Giving, Clothing Closet and Back to School Backpack Drive impacting thousands of children, families and senior citizens throughout Palm Beach County, referred through their vast network of service providers from schools, agencies, caseworkers, community police officers, religious organizations and others serving local low-income and homeless populations.  

Messages of Gratitude

The Giving Tree volunteers are especially touched when they receive messages of gratitude from recipients or case workers representing clients in need. Saying “yes” in a prompt manner has meant so much to so many. It is difficult enough for individuals to ask for assistance, and when they are forced to leave messages and don’t hear back in a timely fashion, it is often too late. The Giving Tree prides itself on responding to emergency situations when every moment counts.

The Power and a Past-Due Bill

A hardworking mom with a full-time job and an 8-month-old baby had an unexpected hardship resulting in a past due electric bill and ultimately the termination of her power from FPL. Having power restored was crucial for this family and the mom was most upset. The Giving Tree was apprised of this situation via a caseworker who had unsuccessfully tried to get assistance from multiple other local agencies that required long waits for approval of funds. The Giving Tree immediately responded to this emergency by paying the past due bill and the power was restored. The response from both the caseworker and the recipient was filled with deep gratitude. “I wish you could have heard her heartfelt words of appreciation when she called me to report her power was turned back on,” said the caseworker. 

Family Home Essentials

A grateful family sends a note after receiving needed living supplies for their apartment: “On behalf of myself and my family, we want to say thank you. With what we’ve received from your hearts, I can truly say this is the first time our little apartment feels like a home. Due to my job, my children were lacking many things, but now they’re overjoyed.” 

A Laptop for Learning

A social worker’s client was enrolled to complete a Virtual GED program to attain a better job, but was unable to attend in-person classes due to his current work schedule. The Giving Tree stepped in to provide a laptop to help him accomplish his goal to better himself. 

The Next Generation of Leaders:
Passing the Baton to Jennie Kreger & Lauren Gross

As The Giving Tree looks ahead to a bright future, two new leaders have stepped up to help take this trailblazing organization to the next level. Temple members Jennie Lewin Kreger and Lauren Gross are most excited to undertake their new roles, and look forward to involving more of our families from the Early Learning Center through Religious School age and beyond.

“I chose to step into The Giving Tree leadership position to honor Myra’s legacy and to make sure the incredible work that has been done for our community for the past 30+ years continues on.”

“It is hard to put into words why I said “yes” when Suzy Broad called me about The Giving Tree. I honestly didn’t even know that much about what they do beyond the holiday gift giving program. It just felt right. It felt like I had found my place at Temple Beth El, and that everything they had taught me and meant to me in the past 40 years were leading to this moment."

With so many local underprivileged children and families facing the daunting task of getting ready for the new school year, the great news is that Jennie & Lauren have already brilliantly chaired the 2022 Back to School Project as co-chairs, coordinating the collection and distribution of backpacks for over 500 local kids plus multiple social service agencies. The supplies were meticulously geared specifically for each grade levels. 
 
Projects like these bring so much joy and hope to our community. As Jennie and Lauren learn from the others and watch, everyone has great hopes that in 2023 they will be fully in charge. They both have younger children still in the religious school and with that the ability to connect with so many of the new and younger families we need to keep pace with fulfilling The Giving Tree’s mission.” 
 
And getting involved is easy, all year-round, as the choices to participate from volunteering to giving are limitless! 

Quiet Giving

For those who have gently used children’s clothing or other items such as books, strollers, cars seats and more, the Quiet Giving program run by congregants Barbara Urban and Suzanne Katz is a fantastic way to help young families and others in need.
 
The organization does stress “gently used” and they say that if they don’t have what is needed in the Clothing Closet, they will purchase items from funds raised. They are grateful for two storage units that were donated where items are sorted and stored to be given out to recipients. Additionally, Quiet Giving assists people who are in need of laptops in order to work or go to school, utility payments, bicycles to get to work, personal hygiene supplies and more.
 
Additionally, another branch evolved called Sweet Dream Makers, Inc. which in 2016 became its own 501c3. It provides beds, bedding and essential furniture in order to offer a safe, clean appropriate place for children to sleep. 

Corporate Giving

One of the many ways the co-chairs of The Giving Tree have additionally obtained new items to keep in stock for helping those in need besides through the generosity of individuals, is via reaching out to corporate donors. As an example of this, a letter went out to Simply Modern asking if they would be willing to donate 200 Summit Stainless Water bottles with a straw lid for a teen holiday gift bag. Other donors have supplied a $75 gift card for each teen and the hope was to include it with the water bottle. Because Simply Modern aligns with The Giving Tree’s mission they were a perfect fit and their generosity in participating was much appreciated.

Holiday Wish Lists

Fast forward to now, The Giving Tree is planning on fulfilling close to 2000 wish lists from local children, families and seniors as well as working with more than 200 local social service agencies with caseworkers representing clients in need as well. This is the biggest fundraiser of the year, and they always strive to exceed expectations. The Giving Tree Holiday donation drive is in full swing and wish lists for kids, teens and seniors in need in our community are available online, which is easiest. For those who prefer, Giving Trees with wish list tags are located at both the Schaefer Family Campus and Beck Family Campus. Simply choose a wish list in person or online and drop off instructions will be provided. For those who prefer not to shop, click here to donate and The Giving Tree volunteers will shop for you.
 
For the first time since 2019 The Giving Tree will be operating in a physical workspace at generously arranged for by congregant, Brian Schmier. It is located in Boca Raton at the Shadowwood Square Shopping Center-Glades Road and 441, Bay F02 next to Old Navy facing Glades Road. 

In Memory and Honor of Myra Singer z"l

After Myra’s passing in 2022, her vision of The Giving Tree lives on through all of the wonderful volunteers who are members of Temple Beth El. Her memory serves to inspire them to do more and help more people each and every day. However, none of this would be possible without the generosity of everyone who gives gifts or funds to each initiative.

In a recent letter to the Singer family to reach out and let them know how Myra’s light lives through all of them…and The Giving Tree that she created, Leslie Steinberg, speaking on behalf of herself and her Giving Tree co-chairs, Judy Gordon and Linda Berger, tells us “Branches have grown, but no matter the size of the project, the heart and core of the mission has always been the same. It is to spread kindness, dignity and hope to make a difference in one life, one need, one day at a time.”

Now that you know more, we hope you will be inspired to support The Giving Tree this year and say “YES”.

For holiday gift drop off hours, email The Giving Tree at [email protected] or visit thegivingtreeboca.org or call 561-213-7847. 

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