First State Bank kicked off the 38th annual Gift of Love program, Thursday, Nov. 7 with the Tree of Names.
Becca Tompkins, director of marketing at First State Bank said, “We are really excited for another amazing year of love and gifting in our community.”
The Tree of Names begins the program that continues to bring joy to local children due to the strong community support. The Tree of Names runs through Dec. 11.
As a Christmas tree spins on its base in the lobby of First State Bank, the tree is decorated with children’s names and their Christmas wishes. Children range in age from a couple months old to 15 years. Some of the requests this year include Hot Wheels, unicorn toys, high chairs and gift cards. Children are also asking for age appropriate clothing, including pants, shirts, hats and gloves.
“This is where we ask the community to come in and pick a child, purchase gifts for that child and make that child’s Christmas brighter,” Tompkins said.
There are trees located at the Scottsbluff and Gering branch locations. The community can come pick a child and purchase at least one of the wish list items. The unwrapped items need to be placed under the trees at the bank by Dec. 11.
As part of the 38th Gift of Love, the program will include additional events for the community to get involved with this holiday. From the Coats 4 Kids and Canned Good Collection to the Turkey Trot and Truck of Love, Tompkins said there are a variety of ways to give.
The Coats 4 Kids asks the community to drop off new coats at either branch location between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31. Tompkins shared how the need is so much greater and while numerous kids include a coat on the wishlist, a coat is something they need to stay warm.
“A coat is not a want,” Tompkins said. “It is a need and many of the times, you see coats on these tags and we want to make sure that we are able to give coats before Dec. 25.”
The Shriners Club and First State Bank partner and have offered around 100 coats in the past toward the cause. The coats are given to CAPWN to distribute.
Another part of the program is the Canned Good Collection where local schools collect can goods for local families and food pantries. So far, Gering Junior High School, Northfield Elementary and Minatare Elementary have signed up.
The National Guard will help pick up the items at each school. On pick up day, the goods are weighed and the school that collects the most non-perishable food items by weight will receive a private viewing of a holiday movie at the Midwest Theater. The top school will also receive a prize, valued at $250. Food pick ups will take place Dec. 6.
“We thank Billy (Estes) for supporting our cause for a few years in that and we’re really excited to be able to offer that as the prize again,” Tompkins said.
Food raised through the collection will go into the Valley Christians Neighbors in Need food baskets that go out to the families. Once those families receive their baskets, the remaining food is distributed to local food pantries.
The Turkey Trot is another race where the community is invited to enjoy. The YMCA First State Bank Turkey Trot 5K run and one mile fun run will be held on Nov. 23 at 9 a.m. The race starts and ends on the Monument Valley Pathway at the YMCA. Registration forms can be found at the YMCA and First State Bank as well as on both businesses’ websites. People are asked to donate new, unwrapped toys during registration. They will save $5 on the Turkey Trot registration fee for the donation. Each age division will have winners, who will receive a certificate for a 10-pound turkey from Main Street Market.
The final event of the Gift of Love program is the Truck of Love, which is taking place Dec. 14 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Scottsbluff First State bank parking lot. The community is encouraged to donate gently used coats and toys with the goal on filling the Nebraska Transport Truck with new and good used toys and the Army National Guard Hummer with non-perishable food items. Following the Truck of Love, the used coats will be delivered to the Lakota Lutheran Center, the toys to the Knights of Columbus and the food to the Valley Christian Neighbors in Need.
“This just kind of rounds out the entire process,” Tompkins said. “We just want to have the brightest Christmas ever for all these children.”
Over 300 children received a new gift last year and the need continues to grow.
“The need is great and the need gets stronger,” Tompkins said. “As the economy gets worse, the need gets more. This year, we will have anywhere between 320 and 360 children on our tree.”
Tompkins looks forward to another loving year of community support during the holidays.