Giving Tree Gets a Post-Pandemic Revamp

For more than 20 years, Loras social work students worked through the Giving Tree program to provide a happy Christmas to under-resourced children. After the COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed how the program worked, Amber Forbort (’23) and Kinsey Bogen (’23) are working to reboot it for the future.

Traditionally, the Giving Tree team — made up of students in the Loras Social Work Council —handed out personalized lists to volunteers to purchase for children around Christmas. Due to the nature of COVID-19 and the need to limit exposure, all donations were monetary.

Kinsey Bogen (’23) and Amber Forbort (’23)

With the pandemic still looming, Forbort explained they were working to find a way to combine the two approaches allowing the program to be sustained moving forward.

“We are starting with a new version. We now have online donations, which didn’t exist before COVID, or they can provide a gift,” she explained

With so much uncertainty surrounding how the program would proceed this year, the team was unable to formally announce the launch of this year’s Giving Tree until mid-November when they finalized partnerships, which helps to support their efforts.

Expanding awareness of the program across campus has also been a hurdle unique to this year. According to Bogen, the limited approach last year combined with remote learning resulted in many students not getting an introduction to the Giving Tree.

“Everything was up in the air and it was more difficult to engage with people,” she said. “We couldn’t gain traction on social media and we couldn’t really go talk to anyone to explain what it is all about.”

For Bogen, a social work major from Rockford, Ill., she sees the reward in their efforts, and, despite having to navigate through these obstacles, the spirit of the program remains.

“I really want to help people and social work really spoke to me. In the end, it feels so good to deliver the gifts and know the positive impact we are having,” she said.

Forbort, a Minnetonka, Minn., native, agreed,” The gifts are so carefully wrapped. We could tell just by holding them in our hands there was a lot of love put into them. Knowing it will result in children smiling when they open them for Christmas is a great feeling.

“It is such an amazing opportunity that Loras is providing me that I never would have imagined was possible before I came here. This community is so understanding and helpful. They just want to help people,” Forbort said.

About Loras College
Founded in 1839, Loras College leverages its historic roots as Iowa’s first college, the second oldest Catholic college west of the Mississippi River and one of the nation’s 10 diocesan colleges to deliver challenging, life-changing experiences as part of its residential, Catholic setting. In 2020, Loras was ranked the 16th Best Regional College in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report and one of America’s Top 200 Most Loved Colleges/Universities by Forbes Magazine for the fourth consecutive year. Loras students ranked No. 2 in the world as part of the global Peeptrade Investment Challenge while a second group ranked No. 4. For the 12th consecutive year, Loras Media Studies student-led television station (LCTV) was named the TV Station of the Year by the Iowa College Media Association (ICMA).