The Giving Tree sits by the staircase in the Fairhaven Village Books. Each angel represents a child that customers can purchase a book for. // Photo by Emily Erskine
Situated in the heart of downtown Fairhaven, Village Books readied their shelves for another year of book donations this holiday season.
Beginning each November and lasting until Christmas, Village Books Giving Tree coordinators set up a Christmas tree in-store for customers to surround with books for children aged newborn to 18 years.
The name Giving Tree derives from the literal opportunity for shoppers to select a tag off of the Christmas tree. The tags represent a child, or an “angel,” as Village Books names them, with a specified gender and age.
“We only specify a certain gender to give customers a general idea,” Giving Tree coordinator Jenni McDowell said. “We all understand and support that books aren’t really gender-specific though.”
Shoppers are given the opportunity to choose books they would like to purchase for the children, with the exception of certain recommendations from organizations about genres or languages. Some books are requested to be in languages more accessible to certain children, or about specific topics the child is interested in.
With their 23rd annual Giving Tree, new owners Kelly Evert, Paul Hanson and Sarah Hutton plan to continue this tradition every year.
“Chuck and Dee [Robinson], the original owners and creators of the store, have always had a strong philanthropic approach to business,” Hutton said. “And that’s a tradition we have continued.”
Hutton also said the reason the Robinsons started the Giving Tree was so they could support children in the community who may not have as much available to them, especially during the holidays.
According to Hanson, this book drive has made a lasting impact on not only community members who receive the donations, but those who contribute.
Hanson said last year a family came into the store with their young daughter for her first Giving Tree donation experience. The parents excitedly shared with Hanson that they used to donate to this event when they were children. This is a tradition of theirs.
Employees also receive a lot of gratitude and appreciation from children and organizations. The children get to send thank you notes and photos to the store that they make themselves.
“I got a card last year signed by a bunch of the kids, which was amazing,” McDowell said laughing. “I was in the break room kind of crying about it like ‘I’m fine!’”
McDowell collects the books in open gift-wrapped boxes behind the register, where she transfers them into moving boxes. The books are separated by genre and age groups, as requested by each organization, and then sent off to their new homes.
Apart from the Giving Tree event, Village Books also participates in a rounding-up program where customers are given the choice to round up their purchase for a cause. The extra amount collected from the round-ups are given to various organizations, such as the Literacy Council and the Humane Society.
“We get involved in their events, and they get involved in ours,” Hanson said. “We did a trail building party last year with Recreation Northwest.”
Hanson said the organization receiving the donation changes every quarter, and that the organizations they work with reflect the close relationships with those companies they have built.
The Giving Tree and the rounding-up event is held at both the Fairhaven and Lynden branches of Village Books.
The organizations receiving donations this year are Blue Skies for Children, Brigid Collins, Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services of Whatcom County, Interfaith Coalition, Northwest Youth Services, Opportunity Council and Whatcom Center for Early Learning.