SNOHOMISH, Wash. - The COVID-19 pandemic is changing how many people are celebrating traditions this year. However, the desire to help those less fortunate is stronger than ever.
For the first time, the Historic Downtown Snohomish Association (HDSA) is hosting the Snohomish Giving Tree fundraiser. Eight trees are placed in the heart of downtown Snohomish that feature a variety of local nonprofits to support their recovery from the pandemic. Each tree is adorned with decorations and tags with wishes specific to the needs of the nonprofits.
“This was an option really bringing the community together and we’re trying really hard to do that in our town because we’ve struggled all year and there’s such divisiveness right now in general. So, this was a great way for everybody to agree on a good thing,” said Ingrid Harten, president of HDSA’s board of directors.
“I like the way that each tree is for a different charity with different needs. It’s all very simple and just a way to reach the community,” said Snohomish resident Janet Hobelman while looking at one of the trees.
The idea is for people to take a wish off the tree, buy the item listed and drop it off at a designated location listed on the wish tag. Harten said HDSA hopes to make Snohomish Giving Trees an annual holiday tradition as they continue their mission.
“Unity. Snohomish together, Snohomish strong. We’re going to continue to be as awesome a town as we’ve always been. But we’re going to do it safely and in a way that brings everybody together. We’re really striving for retaining the strength that we have within this community,” said Harten.
One of the Snohomish Giving Trees will support the Snohomish Senior Center. Executive Director Sharon Burlison said the center has been strategic about finances since most of their fundraising was halted this year. But as the budget is squeezed tighter, Burlison said she worries how it could impact the services they provide.
“What’s that going to look like in 2021?” she said. “Things are going to look a lot different. We might offer programs completely financially different than we would for a senior. So we’re looking for new ideas and innovative ways to bring programs to seniors.”
The center provides free homemade lunches daily to its members by drive-through only. On Wednesday, cars wrapped around the block at the center as staff served a combined 230 free lunches and Thanksgiving meals to-go. The service is more than just providing food—it’s a chance for senior citizens to safely interact from their cars after months of isolation during the pandemic.
“It’s been kind of depressing with all the shutdowns,” said member Carol Fish. “I don’t get to talk up these folks but I get to wave at them and smile and that’s a good thing.”
“I sure miss being able to come in and play games with my friends and things we were doing pre-COVID,” said member Charlene Yarno. “It’s getting real old and I’m getting real tired of it.”
“They’re very lonely. We’ve become the granddaughters and the daughters and sons that they don’t get to see,” said Burlison.
Though services at the center may be impacted in 2021, Burlison said they will continue providing meals as long as they are able. She said members and community donations have helped them maintain efforts. Burlison said they are relying on all fundraising opportunities, like Snohomish Giving Trees, to help them continue serving senior citizens.
“They’re somewhat a lost generation that we tend to forget. So, being the most vulnerable demographic during this coronavirus, I think it just might open up the public to hey maybe we can do something for one of our neighbors or seniors here in our community,” said Burlison. “We’re going to continue to power through and be that person that they get to say hello and goodbye and how are you doing until we can open our doors. Because we know when our doors open, we believe we’re going to an even stronger center family than we ever were before.”
“I just thank God for the senior center and all these kind people that are working here,” said Fish.
Wishes on the trees are up for grabs now through December 12th for those who would like to support the cause. The nonprofits include:
- Everett Animal Shelter
- Cocoon House
- Snohomish Senior Center
- Snohomish Club
- Snohomish Food Bank
- Babies of Homelessness
- Hand in Hand
- Miracles of Memories
McAuliffe’s Valley Nursery donated the evergreen trees. The trees will be auctioned off in January for planting and proceeds will benefit HDSA. Those who are interested in online donations can find more information on HDSA’s website.