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A female student examines a gift tag on the birch tree.By Stephen Wilson

A 15-foot white birch tree sits in the center of Farinon, a flurry of white tags hanging from its boughs. Strands of pine garland drape the walls above white linen tables decorated with jars of glittery pine cones. Add some tiny birds, cozy music, and twinkling lights.

The winter world has come alive inside.

The snack table smells of chocolate as students scoop up a warm fudgy marshmallow s’mores dip and gingerbread cookies.

For more than 17 years, Landis Student Leadership has placed tags on a tree in hopes that “holiday helpers” would select a tag and make some wishes come true.

A female student reads a gift tag.“We have nearly 400 tags this year,” says Amber Zuber, director of Landis Student Leadership. “It is the most ever.” Each tag number represents a family in need with individual tags for each family member. “We have our first set of triplets this year!” she adds.

On each tag are gift ideas. Nothing extravagant—diapers and formula for infants, developmentally appropriate toys for toddlers, and gift cards for parents.

“A student thesis from a few years ago found that gift cards benefited parents more than sweaters that don’t fit or match their tastes,” Zuber says. “Some may think that the cards are impersonal, but our community partners know that parents use those gift cards for needed household items or additional gifts for their children.”

The tags benefit three local organizations: Third Street Alliance for Women and Children, St. Luke’s Nurse Family Partnership Program, and the Roofover and ASPIRE programs at Easton Area Neighborhood Centers.

A mug decoration with "joy" on the outsideThe tree is surrounded by studious eyes of students, sororities, administrators, and faculty as they search for tags. Nearby volunteers staff computers to link those tags to each holiday helper.

“A fantastic team of students makes this event happen,” Zuber says. “Kaitlyn Calogero is the team lead joined by Jenn Burkhart, Emily Kim, Syeda Ahmed, Nicole Giambalvo, Lesley Idrovo, and Nia Burrell. They deserve the credit for their vision and leadership.”

More than this winter wonderland, the team plans and coordinates key details like making sure all tags are tracked, gifts returned, requests fulfilled, and gifts fairly distributed.

If you want to help, contact Landis Student Leadership. All gifts should remain unwrapped and are due by Friday, Dec. 1.

Categorized in: Community-Based Learning and Research, Featured News, Landis Center