The Giving Tree project provides gifts to tots

Caleb Whitehouse, junior in regional and community planning, takes an ornament off a giving tree in Seaton Hall on Nov. 30, 2017. Gifts from the giving tree benefit one of the 16 early learning classrooms at Kansas State's Center for Child Development. (Photo by Regan Tokos | Collegian Media Group)

Every year for more than 10 years, the Kansas State Center for Child Development Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) has sponsored the Giving Tree project, which aims to provide supplies and toys to the center’s early learning classrooms.

Christmas trees, located in six locations on the K-State campus, have been decorated with ornaments that serve as gift requests from the center’s teachers for their classrooms of children six weeks to six years old. The items vary in price, to help with affordability, and in type.

Katrina Ballesteros, teacher to a classroom of 13 preschool children at the Center for Child Development, spoke about the kinds of items teachers asked for.

“We requested clothing … for if they’ve been playing in water or they’ve had a milk spill,” she said. Plus, “a couple of little games and activities that we found online that we thought were really cute, a little pizza kit for them to use in dramatic play.”

Other items such as Sharpies, dry erase markers and laminators are on the wish lists.

The Center for Child Development serves mainly as a childcare resource for K-State students and faculty, though the center is open to enrolling children without a K-State affiliation. There are currently 180 children enrolled at the center. Rosie Mitchell, center director, said about 90 percent of the children enrolled are “children of K-Staters.”

Andrea Feldkamp, academic advisor, got involved with the PTO when she first enrolled her three children in the center, and just stepped down from serving as the organization’s president. She is the Giving Tree project manager.

Feldkamp said she is in charge of contact with all of the locations that hold the trees, which are Hale Library, Justin Hall, Rathbone Hall, the Chester E. Peters Recreation Complex, Seaton Hall and Trotter Hall. She is also in charge of arranging parent volunteer groups to intermittently pick up the gifts from the drop off sites.

Feldkamp said this is one of many projects the PTO organizes yearly to enrich the center, including networking dinners, playground cleanup and teacher appreciation week activities.

“This is the only project we engage the university in as a whole,” Feldkamp said.

Teachers received about 75 percent of the gifts they requested last year, and about 90 percent in 2015, Feldkamp said.

Ballesteros said the project is great for the teachers.

“Teachers spend money out of their pockets so much,” she said. “People may not think that we do. We spend a lot of money in our classrooms and on our students, and so it’s just another way of helping us out a little bit.”

Mitchell said it is a time to give and to support K-State families and children.

“It takes a village to raise a child, and this is just a small example,” Mitchell said.

The tree ornaments have information about when and where to drop off a gift for the children at the Center for Child Development. Those interested in helping still have time to pick an ornament; trees will be up until Dec. 16.