Dana Sawyers found a spot for the tiny, red-and-gold ribbon angel and carefully placed it among hundreds of other homemade ornaments hanging from the tree rising to the wooden rafters of the Bayview Cash Store.
The decoration marked a first for the Whidbey Veterans Resource Center, which previously hadn’t participated in the Giving Tree tradition, now in its 15th year.
Nonprofit groups that help with many needs throughout Whidbey Island benefit from the purchase of the handcrafted ornaments made by their own volunteers and staff. A minimum donation is set by each organization, prices range from $5 to $25, only cash and checks accepted.
Sponsored by Goosefoot, 21 nonprofits joined festivities Thursday evening to hang decorations and leave pamphlets about services and programs in baskets around the tree.
The two Giving Trees will be on display until Dec. 31 at Langley’s Bayview Cash Store and Freeland’s Island Athletic Center.
Visitors to the Cash Store can purchase the ornaments at three shops — Side Market, Salon Bella or the Taproom.
Each ornament is priced and marked with the benefiting organization that range from environmental stewards to Girl Scouts troops to an end-of-life hospice house, said Sami Postma, Goosefoot events and education coordinator.
The Giving Tree idea came from the first merchants of the renovated historic Bayview Cash Store, said Marian Myszkowski, director of programs with the Goosefoot Community Fund, a nonprofit that provides grants to help create a sustainable future for South Whidbey communities and enhance local commerce.
“Melinda Gardiner suggested it and it actually started before the Cash Store even opened,” she said.
The Giving Tree provides a way for locals and visitors to shop for stocking stuffers that are crafty and support a charitable cause. But its purpose extends beyond the holidays.
“I think the most important part of the Giving Tree is it lets people know how many amazing organizations are on Whidbey Island helping the community,” Myszkowski said.
Wearing a cap emblazoned with “Horse People,” Greg Odle, president of Whidbey Equestrian Crossings, said the nonprofit has been participating in the tradition for many years. The organization helps disabled people ride horses at locations in Coupeville and Greenbank.
“I might spot an ornament and make a purchase myself,” said Olde, gazing up at little snowmen, ballet slippers, wooden birdhouses, felt animals, willow wreaths, miniature sleds and other tiny one-of-a-kind treasures.
In less than one hour, the tree went from bare to bling. People hung ornaments high, low and all around the towering 14-foot tree that survived a topsy-turvy fall the night before.
Some of the ornaments are not Whidbey made but Whidbey grown, such as seeds sown by members of South Whidbey Tilth. Look for yellow $5 packets of nasturtium, beans and other flower and veggie seeds.
“It’s kind of cool that what’s been grown on Whidbey will be planted somewhere else,” said Paula Richards with Tilth. “I think a lot of these ornaments are desirable and you won’t roll your eyes when you see them.”