Wal-Mart won't host Epping community giving tree
EPPING — Generous community members who would like to brighten the season for local kids in need of gifts won't find a giving tree at the Epping Wal-Mart this year.
The retail giant informed volunteers from Epping Elementary School last week that they will no longer be allowed to place gift tags on a tree at the front of the store as they have for the past decade.
Wal-Mart spokesman Betsy Harden said the store had concerns about the tree not being supervised at all times.
"It was an operational decision," she said Tuesday.
The tree has served as a place where tags could be hung with gift items needed for local children from birth to age 16 during the Christmas season.
The gift drive has been organized by elementary school librarian Barbara Young for the past 20 years and usually provides about 10 gifts each to nearly 150 children each year.
Young said she learned about Wal-Mart's decision last week when she called to find out when the store planned to put the tree up so she could bring the tags and place them on the branches for donors to take before buying the gifts and returning them in time for Christmas.
Young was surprised by the decision, which forced her and other volunteers to scramble to find other places for giving trees since they've relied on only one tree at Wal-Mart in the past.
"The bottom fell out of everything. We had many people running around here trying to figure out what we were going to do," Young said.
Harden said Wal-Mart will allow a giving tree to be placed in the employee break room. Employees will fulfill the gift requests themselves, and Wal-Mart will cover any gift tags that aren't taken, she said.
"(Workers) want to be able to keep an eye on things to ensure that nothing goes wrong," Harden said.
Young said she appreciates Wal-Mart's help and she's provided some tags for the employee tree, but added she didn't want to see the burden of providing gifts to fall on the store's workers.
Displaying a tree at the front of the busy store was the best way for the community to notice the tags and participate, she said.
"It's the people in town that wanted to buy stuff, and they wouldn't get an opportunity to do that," she said.
In response to Wal-Mart's decision, Young said Epping Town Hall and Telly's Restaurant and Pizzeria have agreed to put up giving trees for the gift tags.
Young said the school's gift drive will also receive a portion of the items donated to the Brentwood and Epping fire departments' annual "Stuff the Bus" event held outside the Epping Wal-Mart last weekend.
Epping teachers and paraprofessionals also donate money to buy gifts.
Anyone with questions should call Young at the school at 679-8018, ext. 234.