A toy that lights up. A board game. Jogging pants. Toothpaste. Gloves.
They may seem simple, but items like these, listed on tags hanging from Christmas trees around the county, are treasures to those who receive them.
Sponsored by The Salvation Army and The Indiana Gazette, the Treasures for Children program is accepting donations of unwrapped gifts for individuals in need throughout Indiana County.
According to organizers, they’ve accepted 300 more applications than last year. At least 100 more are expected to sign up. In all, 1,200 individuals were given gifts through the program in 2012.
A holiday tradition for nearly 30 years, the program has grown in size and scope as time has passed. But one thing never changes — the difference that receiving gifts can make in the lives of those in need.
Those in need aren’t limited to children — the Treasures program also accepts donations for adults with physical or mental challenges and seniors in nursing homes.
Participants who give through the program each year find different motivations for whose tags they select.
According to Linda Donnelly, a coordinator of the program and wife of Gazette publisher Michael Donnelly, some giving gifts will choose a child that they identify with, perhaps a child the same age and gender as their own. Others might pick a tag of a child with the same name as them.
Parents can encourage their children to pick the tag of someone who is in their age group, letting them select gifts they think that individual would like, Donnelly said.
Treasures for Children trees include tags listing children from infants up to 18. Gifts requested can range from diapers for babies to DVDs and video games for teens.
While the latter may seem like a big ticket item, Treasures for Children coordinators ask that those giving consider the perspective of teens, and get creative when giving.
“What we suggest is giving used games in excellent condition, because they are expensive,” said Donnelly.
She added that sometimes a child may receive an Xbox or other video game equipment from someone as a gift earlier in the year. But they and their parents cannot afford the games, so they have no way to use the video game equipment.
Toys aren’t the only gifts that children need at this time of year, however. Hats, gloves, mittens and scarves can mean just as much, according to Donnelly. If someone is interested in donating such items, she reminds them that teens can use them just as much as young children. Large and extra large men’s gloves are especially needed for older boys.
Such items can be dropped off at any Treasures for Children tree. Like other gifts, the winter wear should be unwrapped and marked with a tag that shows they are for the Treasures for Children program.
There’s another way to get involved — through a Stop the Cold tree. Like the Treasures tree, organizations can host a collection at their site, Donnelly said.
“Through the years with this program, the people of Indiana have been so generous, and will ask to put up a tree, but when we have enough trees up to handle what our needs are, we came up with the idea,” she said.
Children’s books can also be donated, Donnelly said. The Salvation Army distributes them to families when they pick up their Treasures for Children gifts.
When it comes to gifts for seniors and adults, oftentimes it’s the little things that go a long way. The gifts are distributed through agencies and care homes. A new nursing home signed up recently, Donnelly said, so there are at least 40 new seniors’ tags hanging on more Treasures trees around the county.
Full bottles of lotion, aftershave and other toiletries are often-requested items. Sweat suits, sweaters and other warm clothing are also popular gifts that seniors and adults request.
The Salvation Army Treasures for Children sponsored by the Gazette runs with no administrative costs. All money donated goes to the program, which is run by volunteers.
Treasures for Children also accepts monetary donations. Checks should earmarked for The Salvation Army Treasures for Children Program and sent to or dropped off at 635 Water St., Indiana, PA 15701.
Gift and monetary donations for all programs should be returned to tree locations by Dec. 7.
If you have questions, contact Treasures for Children coordinator Linda Donnelly of the Gazette at (724) 388-3841, The Salvation Army at (724) 465-2530 or the Gazette office at (724) 465-5555.
Inquiries can also be sent by email to indiSArmyTreasures@indianagazette.net.
Families in need of assistance with gifts this year can contact The Salvation Army at (724) 465-2530 as soon as possible.