LINCOLN — This time of year always concerns Dave Sale, not only Lincoln's Recycling Coordinator/Facilities Manager but also the one in charge of the town's special projects.
One such project is the Lincoln Holiday Basket Program, and a sub-section of that is “The Giving Tree.” That's where residents are asked to stop by Town Hall, pluck a tag with the gender and age of a needy child in town from a bulletin-type board, purchase an appropriate Christmas/holiday gift for him or her, then place it under the lavishly-decorated pine in the main foyer.
When Sale walks through that foyer each and every morning, he notices the stockpile is lacking in number. In fact, as of Tuesday afternoon, he counted approximately 25 presents. That's why he's asking — actually, pleading — for anyone interested in donating to do so as soon as possible.
“We take part in a number of projects throughout the year, but we feel this one is pretty important and special because we're trying to ensure people in need have a Christmas — period,” he stated. “You wouldn't think the Town of Lincoln would have such a problem — folks having a tough time putting food on the table or gifts under the tree — but they are.
“We're not alone, of course,” he added. “I can't imagine what it's like in parts of Providence, or Woonsocket or Central Falls, but Lincoln — trust me — has the same issues. I want to tell you, when we started this program about 12 years ago, we were doing it in combination with Cumberland. We thought it would be to our advantage to go out on our own, so we did.
“The first year we did it by ourselves, we had 45 families on our list,” he added. “Right now, we're pushing 300 families, where we will provide food, clothing and toys, etc. for children. The number has just skyrocketed. In fact, I just got the total number (Tuesday), and – believe me – it's going to continue to grow.
“We're working very closely with the social workers in the Lincoln Public School District, because they're the ones who know more than we do where the needs are. Of course, some people are too proud to approach us. Some of the referrals we get also come from neighbors, who tell us of people who need assistance, maybe because the parents lost their jobs or their hours had been cut back.”
The process behind “The Giving Tree” is for residents – heck, anybody – who wishes to help out to choose an age bracket in which they prefer to buy, take the tag, purchase the item, then bring it – unwrapped – back to the tree.
“The teens, in particular, are most in need,” Sale indicated. “The younger kids' tags are taken off the tree before those in middle or high school, but that doesn't mean they're the ones most in need. It's sad. This time of year, I'm always nervous. I'm worried about not having enough gifts for the families who may not be able to supply their children with a single toy or piece of clothing.
“I always think that way this time of year; however, in the past, the residents of Lincoln always come through for us,” he continued. “For those who may ask 'Well, what should I buy and for whom?' I would say the teens. They could purchase gift certificates to the movie theaters, or fast food restaurants, clothing stores or even coffee shops.
“When school lets out and the kids are on holiday break, their friends are going to those places, and I've heard stories of teen-agers having to say, 'I'm sorry. I don't have the money.' With The Giving Tree, those kids would have the money to go out with their pals for a burger, a pizza, whatever.
“I must say, the tags are only an indicator of the age brackets in which we'd like to provide. Some people like to have a direction. I mean, some people even stop by and give me a check. Right now, we have 184 children from those 300 families we need to help, and the amount under the tree is … well, pretty sparse. We're asking them, 'Please give.' We'll take anything new or even gently-used, and it should be unwrapped, as our volunteers want to know what they're putting in each (holiday) basket.”
Sale stated that the deadline for giving had been Wednesday, Dec. 15, but has extended it to Friday, Dec. 17. The following Monday, between 2-6 p.m., those families who had registered may pick up their holiday baskets – complete with ingredients for a full holiday dinner and gifts for youngsters – at the old Lincoln Middle School (next to the high school) on Old River Road.
He also encouraged parents who are qualified to participate in the Holiday Basket Program to register by calling the Lincoln Senior Center – aka “The Center” – at (401) 753-7000. When they arrive at the former middle school, they must provide proof of residency, such as a phone or utility bill.
By the way, there are an abundant number of tags still left on “The Giving Tree” – most notably those for baby boys and girls; ages 1-2; boys ages 3 and 5; boys and girls ages 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11; and teen boys.
For more information on the program, call Sale at (401) 333-8424.