Serenity Gifts delivering Giving Tree program to Worthington
The goal is to start delivering gifts on Dec. 23.
WORTHINGTON — ’Tis better to give than to receive, and Serenity Gifts is taking that old adage to heart.
The Worthington business, located along Oxford Street, started a Giving Tree program earlier this month. Families in need are encouraged to contact owner Shari Van Der Brink, and nominations are also being accepted. All information is being kept confidential.
“We announced this Dec. 1 and we had already contacted people before that,” Van Der Brink explained. “We contacted some area churches for names, and Love INC was also contacted for names. Random individuals have come in and put in names as well.”
People may visit Serenity Gifts and pick up cards, which include genders and ages of the anonymous family members. Those people then purchase gifts from anywhere and return them, along with the family information card, to Serenity Gifts, which will then wrap the presents and deliver them.
“This is something that I thought I could do to give back to the community,” Van Der Brink said. “I’ve seen other giving trees in past years, but this year I didn’t see even one and I thought this was the perfect opportunity — especially given the times we’re in.”
People who wish to still nominate families for the giving tree are encouraged to add areas of interest for the gift recipients to make it easier to shop for them. Serenity Gifts will also accept monetary donations to make sure all those included on the submitted cards receive gifts.
The goal is to start delivering gifts on Dec. 23, Van Der Brink said. While people are continuing to call and add families’ names, no additional names will be taken after Dec. 20.
“I hate that there's a need, but I’m glad we can help fill it at the same time,” Van Der Brink said. “There are a Iot of families that don’t have jobs because of the pandemic and the situation the world is in right now. There are a lot of different people in hard situations for various reasons.”
Love INC of Worthington Clearinghouse Coordinator Gretchen O’Donnell said the organization is grateful for the Serenity Gifts initiative.
“We have looked through our list of current and relatively recent past clients to find those who are most in need,” O’Donnell said. “We very much appreciate Sheri’s initiative to make this happen in a year without a Community Christmas Baskets program. It’s filling a need in our community, and that’s terrific.”
The giving tree is not the only program that has been coordinated this month at Serenity Gifts, Van Der Brink noted. A “Stand Strong Nobles County” take-out challenge was created by Van Der Brink to support the bars and restaurants that have their dining rooms currently closed due to Gov. Tim Walz’s COVID-19 executive order.
“From Sunday to Saturday, people should save all of their take-out receipts then submit them by 3 p.m. Mondays to Serenity Gifts,” Van Der Brink explained. “The highest spender or group of spenders wins $270 of gift cards.”
Van Der Brink launched the program on Nov. 21, and it will continue through Dec. 31.
“I’ve had people enter as individuals, as couples and as whole families,” she said. “I even had an office pool that came together and said, ‘we spent all this money.’”
Individuals may bring in their receipts to Serenity Gifts or message the business through Facebook with photos of the receipts. Accepted are receipts from bars, restaurants and other eating establishments in Nobles County.
“We’ve had a great turnout,” Van Der Brink said. “Just last week alone, we had just under $1,000 of receipts brought in.
“My big concern, as a friend of some bar and restaurant owners, is I know how hard this was for them the first time they were closed, and I know how supportive they were of me when I had to be closed. This is just my way of showing a little bit of extra support for them. This isn’t about me getting anything out of it — it’s strictly about supporting Nobles County.”