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TOWNSEND — As soon as the Giving Tree looks bare, someone re-decorates it again and again.

And when students take ornaments of the tree, it is a good sign. Re-decorating is the work of a five member coordinating committee that formed in mid-September and has since been organizing and planning the North Middlesex Regional High School Giving Tree program. Two Giving Trees are hung with cards featuring a Christmas wish of a boy or girl and their age. Students are encouraged to pick from the tree and shop for a child.

“It’s important that each child has the experience of unwrapping a gift during Christmas time, helping out with the event is a heartwarming feeling,” coordinator Elisabeth Ryden said, a junior.

Some of the gifts come directly from personalized Christmas lists: A formal winter dress, requests a pre-teen girl. Others are more simple and ask for generic male toy. Coordinators say they want each child to have four or five gifts.

The almost 200 local, underprivileged families from surrounding communities aren’t just the only ones who benefit, the scope of the program also includes buying livestock for Heifer International.

“A lot of people in the community do a good job supporting it, but it’s just as important to help people outside of our community,” said junior coordinator Kellan Morgan, adding that Heifer helps support third-world communities.

Morgan says her older sister was involved on the student committee in the past and, last year, she volunteered time for the program. Because the program is expected to continue growing, it delivered more than 800 gifts in 2009 and 1,079 in 2010, student fundraising coordinators Matthew White and Maddie Balassie were added to the committee.

“We have secured raffles and are looking into areas businesses for donations of gifts and money,” White, a sophomore, said.

Fundraising events such as last Friday’s NM Unplugged Coffeehouse have helped the group march towards their $4,000 goal. That evening, 20 high-school students performed to raise $800.

“NM Unplugged and our wrapping day allow people to give in other ways,” sophomore coordinator Sam Libonate said. “Preparing the gifts is a big part of it, the school community comes out in a big way.”

In the past, 250 volunteer hour have been tallied in the wrapping and sorting day alone. On Dec. 17 in the NMHRS Auditorium, the committee is welcoming volunteers to help load bags of gifts to be shipped off to shelters and distributed to families.

As Christmas approaches, the coordinators plan to use excess funding to purchase gifts on any outstanding cards which haven’t made the trees. After filling Christmas wishes for children in the Care of the Department of Children and Families, Jeremiah’s Inn and Our Father’s House, money will also be put to Ginny’s Helping Hand, a Leominster-based nonprofit shelter for women; local fuel assistance and food baskets.

For those interested in donating, contact Giving Tree Cordinator’s Faculty Adviser Raymond Kane at 978-597-8721 or through e-mail at rkane@nmiddlesex.mec.edu.

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