By Pattern Energy Stories
October 1st, 2021
Wilson, Kansas has a little less than 1,000 residents, and the town of Dorrance, with a little over 200 hundred people, is six miles away.
They are in the same school district, and like many towns around the country, sometimes there are needs that aren’t being met.
Meet Sandy Robinson and Susan Kriley, the founders of The Giving Tree in Wilson.
The Giving Tree is a non profit whose mission is simple: To provide a nice Christmas for every area child. Founded in 2018, The Giving Tree is now heading into its fourth Christmas season, and that means The Giving Tree will be appearing in the Wilson State Bank soon.
I had the opportunity to speak with Sandy and Susan recently about The Giving Tree and its mission, but their origin story almost makes it sound like fate.
“I was talking to a friend one day,” Susan told me, when Sandy jumped in enthusiastically, “and I talked to a friend the same day…” and then Susan jumped back in and exclaimed, “and that night, Sandy and I got together and we said to each other, ‘I have an idea-” and then Susan again, “and that’s how we started The Giving Tree!”
The rest of our conversation went much the same way. Susan and Sandy have built an impactful organization in their community and are now part of a team of ten. Their joy in their mission came through during our chat and we had a free-wheeling, rambunctious call full of good news.
Each Christmas season, the Wilson State Bank in Wilson, Kansas, puts up “The Giving Tree” in their bank.
Through The Giving Tree, community members that know of a family that can use some help for Christmas (or even the family themselves) can fill out a form with a family’s information and that of their children.
The Giving Tree makes a star for that child, but their identity is not revealed. Each star has the age and gender of a child, their size in clothing and toy suggestions that child wants.
People from the community that come into the bank can take a star off the tree, purchase two gifts and then The Giving Tree handles wrapping and delivery to the parents.
“Sometimes people will come through the bank’s drive-through and ask the teller to put money towards a star instead of buying the gifts, and that’s great too!” Susan said. “Wilson State Bank is an amazing partner with us, and we have an account there people can donate directly to, which lets us then buy the gifts.”
Sandy added, “We have five important partners that make this all possible. Wilson State Bank, Wilson Foods, Wilson Communications, Pattern Energy, and Wilson School. They all play such an important part in what we do and we are grateful for their support.”
As the team of ten at The Giving Tree saw the impact they were having, one day they discussed going beyond the needs of Christmas.
“Our unspoken motto really is, ‘It takes a village,’” said Susan, and Sandy nodded in agreement. “Sometimes families have problems and needs outside of holidays, and we wanted to help, so we expanded our mission,” she said.
“We’re open all year,” Sandy told me. In practice, this means that when someone reaches out to let them know about a family in need, they can offer support for different necessities the family may need.
“We live in an amazing community; we really do,” Sandy said. “We’re so proud of our community, and being able to facilitate the community as a whole helping their neighbors that need it is wonderful.
“Our community members volunteer their time and put in a lot of effort to make Christmas happen for the kids.”