The Giving Tree: Rooted in Community Support

By: Catharine Koroulis

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If you need it, take it; if you don’t, leave it. This phrase is the premise behind The Giving Tree located in downtown Fort Collins, Colorado outside of the FoCo Cafe. The Giving Tree is a place where community members can give and receive freely. Each branch is stocked full of items from toiletries and baby wipes to bug spray and snacks. These items are free for the public to take as they wish. No judgement, just community-level support.

As a hybrid of sorts, inspiration for The Giving Tree comes from the Iranian ‘Wall of Kindness’. Like The Giving Tree, the Wall of Kindness was created to facilitate sharing within the community. The idea is simple; individuals are given a place to leave items for others who might be in need. Kelly Cann and Nicole Sizemore of The Mighty Notch Farm and Friendly Critters Farm knew they could make the same impact in the Fort Collins community. Cann’s response to their motivation is simple, “We’re farmers and mothers. We like to feed people.”

the-giving-tree-feature Sign outside of The Giving Tree from Friendly Critters Farm and The Mighty Notch Farm. Credit: Zachary Donahoe

In the spring of 2016 both women, their families, and several volunteers set out to build The Giving Tree. By most standards, the effort has been a huge success. The Giving Tree was constructed in just one day, with mostly repurposed material. Since its inception in February, The Giving Tree has fostered the simple act of reciprocity for many. According to Sizemore, “People go to The Giving Tree who have very little, yet they leave what they can for someone else.”

Although The Giving Tree offers many items, writing journals are the hardest to keep in stock. Cann and Sizemore believe that underserved community members usually have much to say, but no one with whom to share their thoughts. “We love the idea that you don’t have to be a part of the system to help. We just want people to feel welcomed and loved,” said Sizemore.

Housing the Giving Tree at the FoCo Café makes sense. The FoCo Café is based on the pay-it-forward system where restaurant patrons are asked to pay what they can afford, pay for someone else’s meal, or simply pay with their time and talent. Both foster a sense of community and prove that concentrated individual effort can make a huge impact.

Sponsoring a branch on The Giving Tree is easy. To make a donation, please visit Colorado Gives, and specify that you would like to support The Giving Tree. Items that commonly need stocked include wet wipes, baby powder, journals and pens, individually wrapped snacks, hand sanitizer, bug spray, sunscreen, pocket-sized flash lights, toiletries, and hygiene products.

For more information on the FoCo Café, visit their website. Information on the Giving Tree can be found at http://fococafe.org/the-giving-tree/.

the-giving-tree3 Words of inspiration located near The Giving Tree. Credit: Zachary Donahoe.

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