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Gift of Love accepting donations through Dec. 10
November 13, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

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Photo by Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen - Becca Tompkins of First State Bank has the Tree of Names set up in the bank’s lobby for people to help with the Christmas wish list of needed children in the valley.

The 33rd annual Gift of Love program is underway to bring toys, food and other necessities to area families in need during the Christmas season.

Sponsored by First State Bank, the program started with several women knitting booties and lap blankets for children in need and it grew from there.

“The most popular part of the program is the Tree of Names,” said Becca Tompkins, director of marketing at First State Bank. “We ask members of the community to pick a name from our tree and buy new gifts for these children. It makes Christmas a bit brighter.”

The Tree of Names is set up at both the Scottsbluff and Gering bank locations through Dec. 10.

“We ask that people bring the gifts to us unwrapped,” Tompkins said. “The Knights of Columbus help us with wrapping and assuring The packages go to the right place.”

Valley Christian Neighbors in Need and Community Action Partnership of Western Nebraska select about 100 families to be part of the program. The children’s wish lists appear on tags on the Tree of Names. Families also receive a holiday food basket, delivered by the Knights of Columbus. About 320 kids are helped each year through the Tree of Names program.

Another part of the Gift of Love program is the Truck of Love, which will be at the Scottsbluff bank on Dec. 13 to collect new and used toys and winter coats.

The Coats 4 Kids program is also going on. “We partner with the Shriners to purchase and supply coats for children at CAPWN,” Tompkins said. “We believe a coat is not a want, but a need.”
Through Dec. 13, collection boxes will be in the lobbies of both bank locations for donations of new kid’s coats.

“We also challenge the schools and their Adopt-a-School partners to collect canned food and create a display,” she said. “We judge those and give money to the booster clubs at the schools. It makes it more fun for us to interact with the kids.”

Members of the Nebraska Army National Guard also help out with bringing a Humvee vehicle to collect the cans. All the food goes to the Valley Christian Neighbors in Need to stock community pantry shelves.

“I love seeing the generous outTO pouring of love from the community,” Tompkins said. “Because of our slow economy, there’s been more need. People have really stepped up to make the program a success.”
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