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Salt Lake County Giving Tree program provides gifts to isolated, homebound adults

The Giving Tree is pictured in the Salt Lake County Government Center in Salt Lake City. The annual Giving Tree program provides gift donations for older adults who are homebound or isolated this holiday season.

The Giving Tree is pictured in the Salt Lake County Government Center in Salt Lake City. The annual Giving Tree program provides gift donations for older adults who are homebound or isolated this holiday season. (Salt Lake County Aging & Adult Services)


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SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County is once again accepting gift donations for older adults who are homebound or isolated this holiday season.

The annual Giving Tree program will serve a record 400 recipients this year and gives donors the opportunity to fulfill specific needs and requests from older adults across the county. The Giving Tree — which has been a county tradition for decades — is administered by Salt Lake County Aging & Adult Services, in partnership with AARP Utah.

"The winter holidays are often a time when isolated older adults feel alone," agency director Paul Leggett said in a statement. "AAS hopes to make this holiday season a special one, and it's only through the help of generous community donors that we will pull it off. We appreciate the support of AARP Utah and everyone who helps make the Giving Tree possible."

Decorated with lights and hundreds of names and wish list items, the Giving Tree is located in the south building atrium of the Salt Lake County Government Center at 2001 S. State. Donors can pick a name off the tree and have until Dec. 9 to return the requested items to AAS, after which case workers will deliver the gifts and open them with the recipients.

Afton January, spokeswoman for the county agency, said this is the only holiday gift many of the older adult recipients will receive this year.

"We encourage members of the community to come take a look at those names and those requests and see if there's something that touches them and that makes them want to give a present to one of these older adults in our community," she said. "We have clients who are in need. We have members of the community who want to do a little bit of charitable giving this time of year, and one of the most fun ways to do that is to just give a gift directly to someone in need."

A tag shows a gift request on the Giving Tree at the Salt Lake County Government Center in Salt Lake City.
A tag shows a gift request on the Giving Tree at the Salt Lake County Government Center in Salt Lake City. (Photo: Salt Lake County Aging & Adult Services)

January said many of AAS's clients are low-income, and many of the gift requests are for modest household items.

"It's (often) things for people who are on lower incomes and things that can be a bit of a budget-breaker when you're only buying them once every three or four months, like cleaning supplies or hygiene items and stuff like that," she said. "It can be really fun to look at those requests and say, 'Oh, this one really speaks to me.'"

The wished-for items run the gamut from grocery store gift cards to pet supplies to winter gloves and hats. Several requests ask for things like romance novels, coloring books or pots and pans — things to keep people entertained throughout the winter.

This year, January said, she drew the name of 74-year-old Melvin, who asked for a Smith's gift card so he can go to the grocery store.

"There are lots of opportunities to give fun and exciting things, or just the simple gift card requests that I think are still really meaningful," she said.

In addition to the gifts, AARP Utah is working with volunteers to provide emergency preparedness supplies and handwritten holiday cards to AAS clients as part of the gift-giving.

"We always talk about the season of giving," January said. "We really try to take that to heart with the Giving Tree and make it a worthwhile process for everyone involved."

For more information, donors can visit the Giving Tree website. For Medicare counseling, caregiver support and other assistance, older adults can visit www.slco.org/aging-adult-services.

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Bridger Beal-Cvetko covers Utah politics, Salt Lake County communities and breaking news for KSL.com. He is a graduate of Utah Valley University.

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