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Wednesday, November 27, 2019
Entering Oregon State Hospital is like walking into a winter wonderland. Glittery snowflakes drip from the ceiling. Strings of lights twinkle like fireflies, and brightly wrapped gift boxes jockey for attention.
At the center of it all is the Caring Tree, where patients share their holiday hopes and wishes on paper tags. One patient hopes for a plush blanket and a new sweatshirt. Another wants a pair of flannel pajamas, and a third craves a two-pound box of chocolates.
As the director of Volunteer Services, Jeff Jessel’s mission is to see that these requests are fulfilled.
“The goal of the Caring Tree Project is to ensure no patient is left empty handed during the holidays,” he said. “When they receive their gifts, they know someone cares.”
Patients begin by completing a gift request form. They choose from a wide range of items – including DVDs, clothing, blankets and games. Caring Tree staff will create a unique gift tag for each patient and hang it on the OSH Caring Trees. The tag contains the patient’s top two gift choices, gender and age range.
Those who wish to purchase an anonymous gift can simply pull a tag from one of the trees. Additional tags are available by request to outside organizations, state agencies, businesses and community members.
Gift tags are now available for pick up in the lobbies on the Salem campus, and they’ll be available for pick up in the Junction City campus lobby beginning Dec. 2.
People are asked to drop off their donations within a week of picking up the gift tag to allow time to screen the items for safety. However, Caring Tree staff will put gift tags for newly admitted patients on the trees throughout December.
People may deliver unwrapped gifts to OSH, or they can arrange to have them picked up at their home or office by contacting the Volunteer Services Department. Gifts are delivered to patients on Dec. 25.
Since the gift-giving tradition began in 1986, businesses, community members and OSH staff have donated nearly 50,000 items for patients to enjoy.
“Our volunteers work so hard to make this event a success,” said Jessel, noting how each present is nestled in tissue paper, wrapped with festive paper, and adorned with homemade bows. “It’s amazing how the outside community bands together to help. Their efforts have a direct impact on the recovery of our patients.”
You can support the Caring Tree project through donations, contributions or by volunteering. OSH devotes more than 600 volunteer hours toward this project each year and offers numerous ways you can help, including:
For more information about the Caring Tree Project – or to volunteer with gift sorting and wrapping – please contact OSH Volunteer Services at OSHVolunteer.Services@dhsoha.state.or.us or call 503-945-2892.
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