The annual Giving Tree is working to brighten Christmas for foster children

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COLUMBIA - Each year The Giving Tree helps foster parents and resource centers in mid-Missouri give foster children and teens gifts for the holidays.

The Giving Tree is set up outside JC Penny in The Columbia Mall during the mall’s regular hours.

The tree has cards with items that children in foster care are wishing for this Christmas season. Businesses or individuals pick the cards from the tree and donate the listed item.

Over 200 children in foster care will receive gifts this year from The Giving Tree.

The Giving Tree is sponsored by Columbia Foster and Adoption Project.

The gifts are donated by December 10 so volunteers can deliver the set of gifts on December 14. This gives the foster parents the opportunity to get any other wishes before the big day.

Karen Anderson, co-chair of The Giving Tree, holds this program dear to her heart because she has been a foster parent for over 30 years.

“A foster parent has a lot of things going on and to see the generosity of the community really warms your heart,” Anderson said.

She said it’s amazing the things people donate like Xbox’s and gift cards, but there can be unique wishes too.

“One young man is trying to go to a scholar's academy in D.C. and we have some people helping to fund that,” she said.

This is Kate Watson’s seventh year volunteering with The Giving Tree. She said she has spent a lot of time observing people come and go from the tree.

“I love when parents come with their kids and show them the responsibility of giving to those in need,” Watson said.

Anderson said there are a few families that have made The Giving Tree part of their holiday tradition, coming back each year.

Watson said she continues to help with this program because it’s a way to say thank you to all the foster parents and residential centers.