ToP playing Santa for underprivileged families

by By Cristin Parker

The Tree of Promise is making its list and checking it twice – for its annual holiday Dream Tree program.

The non-profit is taking applications for Rusk families to be featured on this year’s Dream Trees through Friday this week. Only children aging from birth to eighth grade living within the Rusk school district, including homeschooled children who live in RISD, are eligible.

“We know lots of our neighbors struggle to make ends meet throughout the year, and the holidays can make that struggle even more painful,” program organizer and Tree of Promise volunteer Kim Beathard said. “We are offering Rusk parents help to make their Christmas a little merrier.”

Official applications will be available through Friday, Nov. 9 and can be picked up from 9 a.m. to noon today at the Rusk Housing Authority Office, in the Rusk Civic Center, 555 Euclid St., Rusk; from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., today through Friday, at the Rusk Church of Christ office, 397 S. Main St., Rusk; and between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday, at the Tree of Promise office, 125 E. Sixth St., on the square in Rusk. Parents will need to bring proof of residency within RISD; proof of number of children (report cards, SSN cards, etc.); proof of income, housing and utility receipts; and proof of unexpected expenses (hospital bills, etc.).

Beathard said the Dream Tree program sees on average 160 Rusk families applying for help each year. Trees decorated with the gingerbread people cards -- each featuring the name, sizes and the short Christmas wish list of a local child – will go on display before Thanksgiving at bank branches and other businesses and churches around Rusk.

“We urge anyone who can, to pick a child and help give them a merry and bright Christmas this year.”

Gifts will be presented to families during the Tree of Promise’s annual Night of Wonder dinner, set for Dec. 17.

“We always have a great time – we have dinner, Santa shows up, it’s really a nice night for our families,” Beathard said. “One important service we do during the Night of Wonder is we take the kids into a side room and tell them the Christmas story, to give their parents a chance to load up donations, to help extend the magic of Christmas for their children.”

According to the organization’s website, its mission is to “build more faithful, stronger and successful families and individuals for a better community by bringing together resources of love, talent, time, equipment and finances from families/individuals, churches, businesses, schools, and the city.”

Other programs the Tree of Promise sponsor includes Jobs for Life; More than a Backpack; Community Powered Renewal; Eagles Serve; and Mega Games.

Visit Austin Bank-Rusk to make a financial donation directly to the Tree’s account; mail donations to the organization’s office, 125 East Sixth St., Rusk TX 75785; or visit the Tree of Promise’s website, and make donations through PayPal’s Giving Fund, an IRS-registered 501(c)3 public charity. PayPal Giving Fund provides a receipt for donations and guarantees 100 percent of donations made through the service go to the charity -- no deductions, no fees.

To volunteer to help with any of the Tree of Promise’s programs, call the office, (903) 683-0414.